A JEWELLER who stole customers' wedding and engagement rings then pawned or melted them down has been jailed for a year.

David McLaughlin, 45, fobbed off clients - including relatives of an MP - by pretending their treasured valuables were in a safe or he still had to polish them.

The total value of the jewellery is thought to exceed £70,000, with incalculable sentimental values for the 66 owners of missing items. Less than half was recovered.

McLaughlin - who survived the Clutha pub tragedy - preyed on at least 84 victims, including one woman who gave him a diamond ring and got it back to find a stone replaced by a fake.

He admitted fraud and theft at his business, Goldsmith, in Irvine, Ayrshire, between November 2009 and December 2010.

Bernard Ablett, prosecuting, said: "Customers left jewellery in the care of the accused for cleaning, repairs or modifications but it was not returned."

One woman gave McLaughlin her wedding ring to be re-sized and was told to call back in a fortnight, but he made excuses and avoided her repeatedly.

"He eventually said he had melted the ring down by mistake and gave her two very small pieces of gold," Mr Ablett told Kilmarnock Sheriff Court.

McLaughlin, of Irvine, pledged much of the jewellery to Cash Generators.

Solicitor-advocate James Irvine, defending, said McLaughlin was ashamed and recognised the consequences of his actions.

Jailing McLaughlin, Sheriff Brian Murphy said he had to take into account the serious breach of trust against his customers.

Sheriff Murphy told him:

"This was a fraudulent scheme on a grand scale carried out on unsuspecting members of the public."