POLICE are appealing for information after a woman was robbed as she walked home from visiting her elderly mother in a nursing home on Sunday.

The 64-year old was only 20ft from her home in Wordsworth Road, Easington Colliery, at about 7.15pm when she was aware of a car following her.

She was approached from behind by a masked man who sprayed her in the face with an unknown substance and grabbed her handbag.

As the victim hung on to her bag the thief, who was wearing a cream ski mask, got into the front passenger seat of the car as it pulled away.

The victim was forced to the ground and was left lying face down as the car sped away.

The thief escaped with the woman's leather bag containing cash, credit cards and keys.

The woman was treated at hospital in Hartlepool for a suspected broken nose, irritation and bruising to her eyes, cuts to her forehead and bruising to her elbows and knees. The pensioner, who works as a school secretary, has been referred for further treatment at Sunderland Eye Infirmary.

PC Ian Morrison said: "This was a particularly nasty violent attack on a vulnerable woman.

"The victim has suffered distressing injuries to her face and has been left badly shaken by the incident."

Anyone with information should call Peterlee CID on 0191-375 2611 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.