THE case of a mobile phone snatcher who grabbed the device from a woman has drawn to a close thanks to police who recognised a pair of curtains in the background of a screenshot.

It was curtains for robber Paul Martyn Knox, who thought he had got away with the phone on his return home after the crime was committed in broad daylight.

Durham Crown Court was told the woman was talking to her family in the Philippines by videocall as she walked down the street in Chester-le-Street town centre.

She was suddenly pushed to the ground from behind by Knox, who took the phone from her and stuffed it into his pocket as he fled the scene.

Unknown to the mugger as he ran off, the trans-global call was still live.

Concerned for the welfare of their relative and, aware the phone had been stolen, the Filipino family quickly realised that despite being on the other side of the world they could help police to solve the crime.

They waited until Knox pulled the phone from his pocket and took screenshots.

These were then sent to the victim’s husband as he was giving a statement to police at the time.

The images were circulated among officers, some of whom were in the process of gathering footage from closed circuit television and taking witness statements.

It was at this point an officer recognised the curtains hanging in the background of one of the images, having visited the property earlier that day, March 3 this year.

Knox was subsequently arrested and admitted offences of robbery and assaulting an emergency worker, spitting at a police constable who arrested him, at a plea hearing at ther court, last month.

Jane Waugh, for Knox, told the sentencing hearing how the defendant took drugs and committed the offence was, "beyond him as it's not the sort of crime he usually engages in."

The 35-year-old defendant, of Kinross Drive, Stanley, was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment by Judge Ray Singh.

Commenting after the hearing, Detective Inspector Chris Woollett, of Durham Police, said: “Imagine being thousands of miles away and witnessing a member of your family being robbed in the street.

“It must have been a horrific experience, but they remained incredibly calm, raised the alarm and ultimately played a significant role in helping to solve this case.

“Our officers worked extremely quickly, and it was their knowledge and determination, together with that vital help from her family, that ensured this man was caught.

“The victim was extremely shaken by what happened but hopefully she can take some comfort in knowing that he has been punished for his actions.”