A “MEAN and despicable” con-woman who stole from her family during a wake has been jailed.

Callous Michelle Roberts, 45, was sentenced to six months in prison after going on a £270 shopping spree in Asda for stealing bank cards, cash and vouchers from her nearest and dearest as they were mourning the loss of her uncle Fred Rousell.

Roberts, who had previously pretended her son had cancer in a bid to collect cash, stole again at the wake of her uncle in Warrior Square, Southend, on December 19, 2011.

Basildon Crown Court heard yesterday that she attended the wake alongside 70 family and friends even though some hadn’t heard from her in 25 years.

She even told her widowed aunty Mary Rousell that she was battling cancer and collecting cash for charity before stealing cash, cards and vouchers from handbags, which had been left by mourners in the kitchen.

Roberts, of Bracondale Road, in south east London, had pleaded guilty to four counts of theft and three of fraud at a previous hearing.

The court was told that as well as the Asda shop, Roberts 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 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. Obviously the incident caused her great upset and distress and because Mrs Rousell’s family were previously very close, she feels the family relationship has been broken as a result.”

The court heard even those closest to her, including Sharon Spence, whom Roberts was a bridesmaid for, had turned their back on Roberts in disgust.

Steven Fitzpatrick, mitigating, tried to convince Judge Jonathan Black to issue Roberts with a suspended sentence because she suffered depression and anxiety. He also tried to claim the media spotlight put on Roberts during the case had but her under considerable strain.

However, Judge Black ignored psychiatric reports claiming they, “make it quite clear that your manipulative behaviour has been extended to those people who wrote the report”.

Sentencing her to six months in prison for each of the offences, to run concurrently, he said: “Not surprisingly those affected by your crime describe themselves in terms reflecting the upset that they must have felt.

Echo: Leaving court - Michelle Roberts covers her face

“I deal with these offences in detail because they fully reflect the mean and despicable way you committed the offences.

“You used time of great grief of Mr Rousell’s family to steal from vulnerable family and friends.”