THIEVES broke into a widower’s home and stole precious reminders of the wife he had lost days before.

The stolen items included his final gift to the woman who had shared his life for almost 40 years.

Retired engineer Graeme Searle, 62, still had sympathy cards on his mantelpiece when the intruders broke in and stole several items of his wife Yvonne’s jewellery.

They also made off with an opal and diamond pendant that her husband bought after she picked it out herself on the Jewellery Channel.

“It arrived 12 hours after she died – they just ripped it out of the box,” he said.

Mr Searle appealed to the thieves to return the precious keepsake, saying: “That’s the thing that really hurts – it’s my last memory of her.”

Mrs Searle, a 62-year-old former carer, had been battling cancer for seven years and died of kidney failure.

A few days after she died. Mr Searle went to stay with relatives and arranged for his daughter Diane to sort through her mother’s possessions.

She arrived at the bungalow in Wavendon Avenue, Barton on Sea, to discover that the property had been burgled.

Mr Searle said: “I was still numb from Yvonne’s death and almost went into auto-pilot, then I looked through the list of the things that had been taken. I knew what they’d meant to her.

“I can’t think what goes through the heads of people who commit this sort of crime.”

The break-in occurred between 12.30pm on February 9 and 11.15am the following day.

Items stolen include a smoky quartz heart pendant on a gold chain, a small gold-framed photograph, a flower-shaped yellow gold opal brooch and a man’s Galaxy watch with a leather strap. Also taken were seven rings, plus a gold diamond and sapphire eternity ring and a gold signet ring engraved with the initials GS.

A police spokesman said: “This crime was a cruel blow to a man who was bereaved very recently. The items had a strong sentimental value.”

Police are anxious to trace a woman who was seen looking at homes in the Wavendon Avenue area and writing in a notebook.

Call Lyndhurst CID on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.