BURGLARS stole a haul of priceless jewellery spanning four generations during a raid at a Benfleet home.

Chris Ruston, 69, was left devastated after burglars forced their way into her home, in Ivy Road, and stole more than 20 items of jewellery dating back to the Victorian era and First World War.

The items had been handed down through four generations of her family and included a Second World War Army brooch which was given to her family inmemory of her uncle, who was killed in action in Persia in 1942.

Ms Ruston returned home from an outing with her grandson just after Christmas, to find her jewellery boxes had been ransacked and her clothes strewn across the house.

The crooks had smashed through a window and using force, bent the locks of the patio doors to gain entry.

Ms Ruston said: “As soon as I opened the door I knew something was wrong.

“There were all these empty jewellery boxes on the bed and clothes everywhere. I couldn’t believe it.

“When you get given something after someone has died it’s not about how much it cost, because it’s worth so much more than that.

“These should have been passed down to my daughter and then to her daughter.

“I’ve got nothing left now from my family apart from one brooch on my coat. All these memories are just gone now – four generation’s worth.

“I’m absolutely devastated, because I always make a point of locking my doors and windows.”

The stolen items included a Victorian tie pin, hat pin, and a selection of rings dating back to the first and second World Wars.

The Army brooch includes a photograph of Ms Ruston’s uncle.

The break-in happened between 10.30am and 4.30pm on December 28.

An Essex Police spokeswoman said: “Our forensic officers have been to the property and we are investigating.

“Anyone with information, or who is offered the items, should contact DS Franklyn at Southend CID, on 101.