A love rat conman ripped off a vulnerable single mother by lying about needing money to pay for his grandfather’s funeral.

The vulnerable victim gave Damian Smith her bank card and PIN number so he could take out £200 but he ended up looting more than £3,200 and leaving her with just £9 in the bank.

In reality, his grandfather was still alive and he spent her money buying cannabis and drinking up to 40 cans of cider a day.

Smith, of North Road, High Bickington, was in a relationship with the woman, who had physical and emotional issues after recovering from a brain tumour, for just two months.

Paul Grumbar, prosecuting, said the 27-year-old had been in a short relationship with the victim a few years earlier but it broke up because he was unfaithful and borrowed money he did not repay.

Early last year he bombarded her with messages on social media asking her to get back together but once in a relationship, he used her cards to withdraw cash.

He was branded as merciless and despicable by a judge at Exeter Crown Court, but spared an immediate jail sentence after he promised to repay the £810 which has not been reimbursed by the bank.

Smith admitted 12 counts of theft and two of fraud and was jailed for 12 months, suspended for a year, ordered to pay £810 compensation, do 200 hours community service and receive 20 days supervision.

Judge Timothy Rose told him: "You mercilessly took advantage of her and knew exactly what you were doing. You knew perfectly well she was vulnerable physically and emotionally.

"This was a despicable course of conduct which caused real harm not just financially but emotionally. It caused her a very considerable degree of stress and has blighted her outlook on possible future relationships.

"This was money she had saved up responsibly and expected to have the use of for herself and her son. You blew it on alcohol and cannabis."

Richard Crabb, defending, asked the judge to take account of a probation report which said he was drinking 30 to 40 cans of cider a day and smoking cannabis at the time.

Mr Crabb said Smith has now given up drugs and reduced his drinking as a result of starting a new relationship with another partner.