A YOUNG couple with a small child have escaped with pensioners' cash in two bogus caller thefts.

On Monday, two incidents occurred in Durham that police believe may be linked to others on Tyne and Wear.

A man in his 20s with a girl of about seven called at an elderly woman's home in the Springwell Avenue area, claiming to be collecting jam jars. The child asked for a drink of water and the man then asked to use the toilet.

They left the house, taking a shopping bag and its contents, which included a purse containing £20.

Later, a couple in their 20s, again with a child, called at a flat in The Chains, claiming to be charity collectors.

The youngster asked for water but the occupants refused to let them in.The trio then went to an upstairs flat on the same pretext.

They were allowed in and, after distracting the two occupants, took a wallet.

Police believe the same people were involved in all three incidents and that they may have been responsible for stealing a purse in Chester-le-Street on October 23.

They also think there is a link with similar offences in Gateshead, Low Fell, Whickham, Washington and North Tyneside.

Detective Chief Inspector Andy Summerbell said: "Bogus callers are responsible for hundreds of these types of offences.

"The thieves responsible have no thought for their victims, who are often pensioners left badly shaken.

"Our advice to the public is to check callers' credentials."

The man is aged 25 to 30, 5ft 4in to 5ft 6in, slim and with thick curly hair.

The woman is about the same age, 5ft 2in to 5ft 4in, with black wavy hair and brown eyes.

The girl is seven to nine, with black collar-length hair and brown eyes. All had local accents.

Anyone with information should call police on 0191-386 4929