When he struck at the family home, he made off with their car, which contained a pool cue that belonged to her son, Ian, who has Down’s syndrome.

The cue had been a birthday present and it was Ian’s pride and joy. Since the break-in, he has not played pool again.

The thief had also stolen a bag containing a keepsake that belonged to Mrs Turnbull’s mother.

The burglar, who had volunteered to take part in the scheme, apologised profusely for his actions and said he had not specifically targeted the victims.

He said they had been opportunist crimes to get money to pay for his drug habit.

Mrs Turnbull said: “I was expecting to meet a great big brute, but when I saw him, I just thought ‘poor bairn’.

“You could walk past him in the street and not look at him twice.

“At the end of the meeting, we were all drained, but glad we went through it. I think he was genuine in wanting to change.

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