A "mean and despicable" career criminal who stole from her family during her uncle's wake has been jailed for just six months.

Former Gravesend resident Michelle Roberts, 45, went on a £270 shopping spree in Asda after she stole bank cards, cash and vouchers from her nearest and dearest as they were mourning the loss of Fred Rousell.

Roberts, who previously pretended her son had cancer in a bid to collect cash which she kept for herself, attended the funeral in Southend, Essex, on December 19, 2011, despite some family saying they hadn’t heard from her for 25 years.

Witnesses recalled being suspicious of Roberts and one even saw her with her hand dipping into a handbag.

But no alarms were raised until after the wake when relatives found their belongings were missing.

As well as the supermarket shop, Roberts, now of Bracondale Road, Abbey Wood, also stole John Lewis vouchers worth £300, £80 cash and used the stolen bank cards to also buy CDs worth a total of £134.21 from CDwow.com.

In total she admitted four counts of theft and three of fraud in January.

Jamas Hodivala, prosecuting, said the incident had ripped the family apart.

He said: "For the last two years Mrs Rousell feels unable to put her husband to rest because of the incident that occurred.

"The incident caused her great upset and distress and really because Mrs Rousell’s family were previously very close she feels the family relationship has been broken as a result."

Steven Fitzpatrick, mitigating, tried to convince Judge Jonathan Black to issue Roberts with a suspended sentence because she suffered depression and anxiety.

Judge Black shunned psychiatric reports which showed Roberts was troubled mentally saying the reports "make it quite clear that your manipulative behaviour has been extended to those people who wrote the report."

Sentencing her to six months, at Basildon Crown Court on Monday, for each offence to run concurrently, he added: "You used a time of great grief of Mr Rousell’s family to steal from vulnerable family and friends."

In a previous hearing Roberts also admitted to stealing a purse from an 89-year-old lady while carrying out community payback at the Northfleet Sunday Lunch Club for the elderly.