A WIDOW has been left heartbroken after callous burglars stole her life savings and love letters written by her husband 50 years ago.

The 73-year-old woman, who has not been named, was the victim of bogus callers who targeted her home in Lowther Avenue, on the Garden Farm Estate in Chester-le-Street.

Det Con Steve Hedley, of Durham police, said: "She is a very trusting old lady, who has been left desperately upset by the loss of her savings and her husband's letters, which can never be replaced.

"She is a lady of nervous disposition and relatives have been staying with her since the theft was discovered."

Police have carried out house-to-house inquiries and believe the conman kept her busy while an accomplice ransacked the three-bedroom house.

The pensioner, who lives in the rented council house alone, let in a cold caller claiming to be from the water board, at about 10.30am on Monday.

The man told her the water supply had been contaminated by a burst pipe and he needed to check the taps.

She invited him in and he spent about half an hour with her in the kitchen, then left, promising to return with specialist equipment to properly check the water.

When he failed to return, she became suspicious and contacted police. Officers found a drawer in one of the bedrooms had been forced open.

The crooks stole a wallet and purse, containing what police described as a substantial amount of cash, along with the love letters.

The bogus water board official is described as 5ft 5in tall, of medium build. He was clean shaven, with a fair complexion and spoke with a local accent.

He was wearing a crew-neck, woollen jumper that was dark coloured or black, and dark trousers.

Detectives are appealing for witnesses. Anyone with information is asked to contact Chester-le-Street police on (0191) 388 4311, or phone Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.