A former college cleaner who stole a ring belonging to playwright Oscar Wilde and two medals worth a total of £37,000, sold them to a scrap dealer for £150.

Eamonn Andrews, 42, of no fixed address, who worked at Magdalen College, Oxford, had no idea the haul was so valuable, a court heard.

Didcot magistrates were told that Andrews drank whisky stolen from the college bar, then broke into the Old Library at the college to steal the 18-carat gold friendship ring, which had been given by Wilde and his friend Reginald Harding to William Ward. The three men were close friends when studying at the college.

The ring formed part of an extensive collection of Wilde memorabilia owned by Magdalen. A Henley Royal Regatta Grand Challenge Cup medal from 1910 and a silver and a bronze medal presented to RFG Sarell in 1932 were also stolen in the burglary on May 2 this year.

The items have not been recovered.

Andrews, also known as Eamonn Anderson, admitted burglary. He told police he sold the ring and medals to a London dealer for £150.

Caroline Hitchcock, prosecuting, said Andrews knew his way around the college because he used to be employed as a cleaner and handyman. His ex-wife was still head gardener there.

Forensic experts found traces of blood at the scene, which revealed DNA evidence linking Andrews to the crime. Andrews was arrested at 11.20am on May 2. Graham Harrison, defending, said Andrews, who was already serving a six-month jail sentence for another offence, had no idea of the value of the ring and medals.

Mr Harrison said: "It's not what can be described as a sophisticated burglary. Mr Andrews himself has described it as a 'crash, bang, wallop job'.

"He had drunk before going to the college. On an impulse he has committed the substantive offence of stealing the ring and medals."

Andrews was ordered to appear before Oxford Crown Court on September 2 for sentencing. He was remanded in custody.