When George Pearson captured shocking scenes of children as young as nine setting fire to a stolen car, all he wanted to do was tell a police officer.

The 55-year-old taxi driver heard a commotion outside his home in a crime-hit neighbourhood and went to investigate.

On a patch of waste ground opposite, a group of about ten children, aged between nine and 16, were gathered around the vehicle.

Mr Pearson grabbed his camcorder and watched with growing alarm as the gang started to set the car ablaze.

Armed with his damning evidence, Mr Pearson felt it was only a matter of time before they were rounded up.

However, finding a police officer was more difficult than catching the criminals in the act. He left his home in Witherwack, Sunderland, at 8am the next day, having transferred the camcorder footage on to a VHS tape.

First, he went to the community office on the neighbouring Redhouse estate, but found it was closed.

He got back into his car and drove to the Southwick police office, a showpiece station opened in the early 1990s. Once again, he found there was no one there and the doors locked.

But, as he was leaving, a police officer pulled into the car park and Mr Pearson approached him, explaining what he had captured on video.

To his astonishment, the officer refused to take the tape, and instead directed him to Gilbridge Avenue police station, in the centre of the city.

The married father-of-one said yesterday: "I really don't know why I bothered to get involved."

A Northumbria Police spokeswoman said: "We would have preferred it if he had called 999 to alert us of the incident. We now have the tape and are looking into the matter.