A SELBY man who robbed a 72-year-old woman as she walked home from the shop early one morning has been jailed for 16 months.

Paul Frith, of The Haven in Selby, pleaded guilty to robbery on the morning of his trial on Monday.

Prosecutor Nick Adlington told the court that 72 year old Norma Dobson was on the way back home from buying a newspaper at around 7.15am on October 18 last year when she felt something push her from behind. She stumbled and dropped her paper, and then realised someone was wrestling her purse from her hand.

Frith, 26, then stole her purse and ran off, but claimed he had not planned the attack but accidentally crashed into his victim and took the opportunity to take her purse when he saw it.

Mr Adlington told the court there was no evidence to contradict Frith's claims so the crown accepted his guilty plea as it avoided the need for the 72-year-old recently widowed victim to give evidence in court.

He added: "Mrs Dobson's shouts for assistance were heard by two local men, who gave chase into an area of brambles."

When Frith was arrested later in the day he had fresh scratches on his body which his partner admitted he did not have when he left for work that morning, he added.

Addressing Frith before he passed sentence Recorder Jeremy Hill- Baker said: "Mrs Dobson had a right to expect she would have got back home without having her purse taken. sadly for her that's exactly what happened, and you are responsible for that..

"You have pleaded guilty on the grounds that you accidentally ran into Mrs Dobson and for the purposes of sentence I am prepared to stretch my credibility. But even then you did not try to help her but instead struggled for her purse and ran off. It's an offence which requires an immediate custodial sentence."

The judge also praised the two men who chased Frith without knowing if he was armed, and ordered them to be paid £100 each as a token of the court's gratitude.