A COWARDLY thug attacked and robbed an 86-year-old pensioner of her purse after she stopped to help him with directions.

Jamie Duncan pounced on the vulnerable woman by reaching into her pocket and stealing her purse after he pretended to be lost.

She bravely tried to fight off her attacker during the incident in Tranent but he proved too strong and broke free from her grasp and ran off with the cash.

Police were quickly alerted and Duncan, of Mossneuk Street, Coatbridge, was soon picked up by officers in a nearby street following the robbery last November.

The distraught elderly victim was said to have been left in “floods of tears, sobbing and hyperventilating” due to the attack.

Duncan, 29, admitted the assault and robbery when he appeared from custody at Edinburgh Sheriff Court in June and returned for sentencing today (Friday).

Sheriff Donald Corke was told Duncan had been released from a previous 10-month custodial sentence last Friday but that he is now “no longer using drugs”.

Solicitor Angela Craig said her client was currently looking for employment and he is “thoroughly ashamed at committing this offence”.

Ms Craig said Duncan received the 10-month prison sentence last year after he breached a previous community payback order imposed in 2016.

Sheriff Donald Corke said: “Given the nature of the offence custody is upmost in my mind.

“But I don't think it will be useful to send you back straight away, it will be more useful to try and get you to change your behaviour.”

Sheriff Corke placed Duncan on an 18-month supervision order and ordered him to complete 240 hours of unpaid work in the community.

The sheriff also told the thug he must pay his victim £200 in compensation.

Previously, the court heard the 86-year-old woman was approached by Duncan as she waited to cross  Haddington Road in Tranent at about 3.30pm on November 28 last year.

Fiscal depute Lorna Ferrier said: “She provided him with directions but he walked off in the opposite direction.

"He returned shorty after and asked how to get to Musselburgh.

“The accused put his hand around her shoulders as if to give her a hug. The accused then put his hand inside her pocket where her purse was.

“She asked him to stop but he refused and a physical struggle ensued.”

The fiscal added the OAP eventually gave in and Duncan ran off with her purse.

She managed to make her way home and a neighbour described the woman as being in “floods of tears, sobbing and hyperventilating”.

The attacker was then spotted by police about 30 minutes later and he was found in possession of the woman’s bank card while her purse was found in a nearby bin.