Cape Town 06-02-2013 Joan Fredericks outside her Tafelsig home as cops take her in for questioning after she stole money from Joan Jacobs.Now she is charged with theft. pix Patrick Louw story Venecia America

Cape Town - A 63-year-old Cape Town woman has a criminal record dating back 26 years for theft and has escaped jail three times.

Despite this, Joan Fredericks again escaped a custodial sentence on Thursday when she appeared before the Mitchells Plain Magistrates’ Court.

She was in the dock after the Daily Voice exposed how she stole R2 800 from Shaheeda Jacobs’ bag while she was shopping in Mitchells Plain Town Centre.

Fredericks escaped with a warning after pleading guilty to a charge of theft.

But the grandmother was given a stern warning by Magistrate Siya Ngaxale as she stepped into the dock.

“If you don’t admit that you have previous convictions then you will face a fine of R40 000 or two years in prison,” the judge warned her.

When he asked her if she pleaded guilty or not guilty, Fredericks sheepishly answered: “Skuldig [guilty].”

She was told she was being let off with a warning until her case comes before the court again on February 28.

Court documents seen by the Daily Voice reveal that Fredericks has a history of theft dating back to 1987.

And relatives – who do not want to be identified – claim Fredericks began her “stealing” stint when she stole a woman’s purse in broad daylight.

She also allegedly made “easy money” when she pickpocketed drunk sailors at a pub called the “Traintjie” in Cape Town.

“She stole a white lady’s purse in a shop in the 1980s,” the relative said.

“Then, when her son worked at OK Bazaar at Kenilworth Centre, she filled her coat with chickens at the store – she was bust and he lost his job.”

And Fredericks proved she was unable to kick her “habit” when she was again caught on Wednesday.

The granny thief’s latest victim was in court on Thursday to see her face justice.

Unemployed Jacobs, 42, was outraged after the granny dipped into her handbag and stole R2 800 from her.

But on Thursday she admitted she felt sorry for the pensioner’s family for the humiliation she has put them through.

“I’ve got nothing against the family,” Jacobs said.

“I feel sorry for her grandchildren because they will now forever be left with the memory of their thief grandma.

“I am glad she admitted to what she did, but I just want my money back as soon as possible.”