A DYING woman's final days were overshadowed after thieves stole jewellery from her handbag as she lay on her deathbed.

Doris Brown, a double amputee who was in end stage heart failure, always wore three gold chains bought for her by her husband, Ray, and son.

The 73-year-old, from West Auckland, removed them for a scan in Darlington Memorial Hospital just days before her death.

Hospital staff mistakenly moved her handbag to another ward while she was undergoing the scan.

It was found and returned a day later – but thieves had stolen the three gold chains as well as some money. She died five days later.

Now her son, William Cousins, said he wanted to get a message to the people who stole his mother's favourite jewellery.

The Northern Echo: Ray and Doris Brown on their wedding day, 25 years agoRay and Doris Brown on their wedding day, 25 years ago

He said: "It just felt like the worst crime in the world and it knocked her sideways in those final days. She was really distressed by it.

"I would like to say to those people well done, I don't know who you are but you have preyed on the most weak, the most vulnerable. I hope it pricks someone's conscience. She never took those chains off and they were the chains that her husband would have liked to wear, that we would have liked to keep after she died.

"It was a horrible, horrible ending for her. She wasn't an old woman. It was horrible for a lot of different reasons. I would just like these to people reflect on what they were doing, and their actions."

Mrs Brown was not able to get around easily as she had both her legs amputated above the knee due to complications with diabetes. Despite this, Mr Cousins said that hospital staff had told her she was legally responsible for her own belongings, following the theft.

He said: "She was not only gutted, she was angry about it. Her bag went missing because someone from the hospital mistakenly moved the bag with another patient."

The three gold necklaces included a St Christopher pendant, a half sovereign and a crucifix.

A spokesperson for County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We would like to offer our sincere condolences to Mrs Brown’s family. We’re very sorry for the added distress caused by the loss of items belonging to Mrs Brown and concerns about how this happened.

“When we become aware of items that have gone missing, we do all we can to try and recover them, including involving our security team. We also fully comply with any police investigations following allegations of theft. We do encourage patients to leave any valuables at home when coming in to hospital to ensure their safekeeping.

“We are speaking with Mrs Brown’s family to keep them updated on our efforts to recover the missing items.”

A Durham Constabulary spokeswoman said they were investigating a theft between 7pm on June 4 and 2.30pm on June 5.