A bricklayer left a couple heartbroken when he stole their wedding rings as they were in the process of moving into their newly built home.
Damon Fitch was working on the bungalow at Exton, near Exeter, where the two pensioners were about to start a dream retirement in the country when he raided their bedrooms.
Owners Jennifer and Eric Emery had not even had a chance to spend their first night in their new home before they discovered that Fitch had searched the bedrooms and stolen jewellery.
The took £3,820 of gold and silver including both wedding rings and sold them for a fraction of their true value at second-hand shops so he could spend the money on drugs, Exeter Crown Court was told.
Fitch, who was sofa surfing with friends at the time, admitted two counts of burglary and was jailed for 16 months, suspended for two years with supervision and a condition of residence at the Amber Foundation.
Judge Phillip Wassall told him he was sparing him jail because he is now working with the Amber project, which is based at Chawleigh, near Chulmleigh, North Devon and has a satellite operation in Surrey where Fitch is staying.
He told him:”You were trusted to go into this dwelling which was in the very late stages of construction, so this offence was a breach of trust.
“You were working as a builder and the owners were beginning to take their valuable into the property before living in it, so it was not a case of disturbing them when they were sleeping at night.
“You knew perfectly well what valuable were there and you stole them. They included irreplaceable jewellery and their wedding rings which were of great sentimental value.
“You have had difficulties in your life and began using illicit substances at the age of nine. What is significant is that you are now working with the Amber Foundation and training to be a tree surgeon.
“The work with them is such that there is a prospect for a future for the first time in your life. The Amber Foundation can not only give you hope but can give society hope in your case.”
Mr Gareth Evans, prosecuting, said Fitch was working on paving and steps for Exmouth-based Timbertech builders on the newly built bungalow at Viilage End, Exton, when he carried out the raids in September and October.
New owners Jenny and Eric Emery checked their belongings after seeing him coming out of one of the two bedrooms, which they had started to move into and were meant to be out of bounds for the builders.
They found jewellery including their wedding rings missing and Fitch confessed when confronted by his boss.
He told police he had sold the jewellery for £410 at the Cash Converters and Wants shops in Exeter and spent the money paying off debts and buying cocaine and cannabis.
Miss Mary McCarthy, defending, said Fitch has chosen to move away to Devon so he can start a new life with the help of the Amber Foundation and hopes to escape the cycle of drug abuse and crime.
She said he deserves credit for admitting his involvement from the outset.