An Irvine woman who was caught dealing drugs at an Ardrossan hostel has turned her life around – thanks to her new partner.

Sarah Duff, of Broomlands Gate, was living in the Princes Street complex in May last year when a member of staff caught her in possession of deadly fake Valium.

Duff, 36, had supplied a friend of hers with some of the Etizolam pills on May 8, and got in to more trouble in August and September.

She got a taxi from Crosshouse Hospital to the hostel she was living at in Boyle Street, Irvine on August 25 without paying - thereby committing a £25 fraud.

And, on September 21, she raided the Co-Op store in Dreghorn, making off with £27 worth of meat without paying.

The details emerged this week when Duff appeared in the dock at Kilmarnock Sheriff Court in connection with the offences.

Procurator Fiscal Depute Scott Toal said: “She was a resident in the [Ardrossan] hostel at the time.

“At around 3pm on the day in question a member of staff saw the accused holding several white tablets, in the accused’s room, which were believed to be Valium, and asked for them to be handed over.

“She refused and attempted to hide the tablets on her person.

“Around two hours later another member of staff saw the accused attempt to leave and went to inform the accused that if she didn’t hand over the pills she would be losing her accommodation.

“The accused stated she had, ‘already taken 15’ and had gave her friend Claire Allan 10 tablets.

“The police were contacted and attended.”

Claire Allan confirmed she’d been given pills by Duff, and Duff said she thought she had been doing her a favour by giving her the pills.

When traced over the shoplifting from the Co-Op, Duff said “I’ve not got gas, I’ve not got leccy.”

She admitted those offences when she appeared in the dock at a pre-trial hearing, and was also due to be sentenced over a £2.50 theft from another store.

Defence solicitor Christopher Rae said he had observed “a remarkable turnaround” in his client’s life.

The lawyer said: “She is now taken with a new partner and, I have to say, it’s remarkable.

“Her partner appears to be the making of her.

“She passed me in the hallway and I did not recognise her.

“Her personal appearance, and her change in her circumstances and her outlook on life - I have to say astounds me.

“He is responsible for what appears to be a remarkable turnaround.”

He said she was now on benefits and had her own tenancy, which she has managed to keep hold of, and was now able to do simple things like buy shopping, when previously she would have had to steal to eat.

He added: “She had been released from prison on May 3 last year, and five days later she had not been receiving her medication.

“She had simply not been able to get her affairs in order to deal with that.“She went back to the way she had been dealing with her mental health issues and bought Etizolam, and then swapped this for prescribed medication.”

He said she had basically been in a coma when coming back from the hospital in August, and was happy to pay the £25 the taxi cost.

He added: “She is now in receipt of benefits.

“At the time she had no income, no benefits, no bank account.

“She is now in a place where she does not need to steal in order to survive.“She now has an incredibly supportive partner who is very much her rock.”

After hearing Duff had ‘made a big step’ towards living a crime-free life, Sheriff Michael Higgins called for background reports to be prepared ahead of sentencing and adjourned the case until later this month for that to be done.