AN off-duty police officer was stabbed in the head with a pair of scissors as he tried to detain youngsters suspected of stealing a car.

Sergeant Phil Bromley suffered a number of wounds during the attack, but still managed to hold on to one of the teenagers until help arrived.

The incident happened when he spotted two youths abandoning a Nissan Micra in the Rift House area of Hartlepool, shortly before midnight on Tuesday.

Sgt Bromley, 52, had been driving home with his wife and daughter when the noise the youths were making attracted his attention.

He confronted one youth but was immediately set upon from behind by the other.

Sgt Bomley said: "There were two youths. One ran away from me, but then the other came out of nowhere and attacked me with some type of weapon.

"Just as I turned around, he came from nowhere and was on me. He went straight for my head. He was definitely trying to do me some serious harm."

Sgt Bromley was able to hold on to the youth for about ten minutes until police colleagues arrived to help him.

His wife of 27 years, Irena, 49, said: "I realised straight away Phil had been injured. There was a lot of blood.

"I tried to help him restrain this youth while our daughter called for the police."

Sgt Bromley was treated by paramedics at the scene before being taken to the University Hospital of Hartlepool. He needed stitches for his injuries.

Yesterday, he was recovering at home.

The second youth fled and police are appealing for information that might help identify him.

He is described as being 14 or 15, about 5ft 4in and wearing a black or dark coloured woolly hat, a dark top and tracksuit bottoms.

Anyone who witnessed the incident, or saw a youth running away from the car, is asked to call Hartlepool police, on (01642) 326326.

* A 15-year-old youth was in custody yesterday helping police with their inquiries. A spokesman said he was due to be questioned by police last night.