Detectives are searching for a "cowardly" youth who left an 83-year-old woman badly shaken after snatching her handbag in a Barnard Castle street.

She was walking in Birch Road, near the junction with Newgate, when the robber rode up to her at speed on a mountain bike and grabbed the bag from her arm.

He rode along Birch Road and turned into Parsons Lonnen.

He disappeared before police got there after people in the area heard the woman's cries for help and dialled 999.

Sergeant David Storey of Barnard Castle police, said yesterday: "The culprit was white and wearing a baseball cap. He appeared to be in his late-teens.

"I would describe this as an extremely cowardly attack on a vulnerable old person.

"She was badly shaken by the ordeal but was not injured. The bag contained money and personal items. It is most unusual for a handbag snatch to be carried out in Teesdale. This type of crime is well known in some urban areas, but it is a long time since I've known one here."

The robbery took place about 6.20pm on Saturday but was made public only yesterday.

Sgt Storey said police had spoken to several witnesses who saw the thief on the bike, but would like to hear from anyone else who might know him.