Woman turns detective to track down car thief using CCTV footage and Facebook

A woman tried and failed to fight off a car thief but she was able to track him down via a Facebook appeal and see him jailed.

Thomas Thornton, 35, admitted offences of robbery, fraud and affray over the attack, at Manchester Crown Court, and was sentenced to five and half years behind bars for that and other offences.

A career criminal, who committed his first robbery aged just 11, he now has more than 140 offences on his record, including his last conviction for robbery in 2010 when he stole a car by biting his victim's hand to get the keys.

Thornton, of no fixed abode, was back up to his old tricks targeting a young woman visiting Failsworth Primary Care Centre, reports the Manchester Evening News.

Prosecutor Claire Brocklebank told how the victim was returning to her Mercedes A200 which was parked in the car park on 16 January last year when she was approached by Thornton.

"The defendant approached the victim who was on her own and grabbed her by her hand which contained the car keys," Miss Brocklebank said.

"He said 'give me your car keys', she refused, resulting in a scuffle as he tried to take the keys from her. The two of them began spinning round and round and the victim started punching the defendant in the head to stop him from taking the keys.

"The defendant looked her in the eyes and said 'who the f*** do you think you are hitting me?'."

Thornton eventually managed to pull some of the keys, including the car key, away from the victim who then bent down to the floor as she had dropped her phone, the court heard.

Thornton drove off in the Mercedes which contained valuables including a purse, £140 in cash, a laptop, personal items such as the victim's driving licence, a jacket worth £100, sunglasses worth £200 and clippers worth £500.

Thornton later used the victim's bankcards to buy items at a newsagent worth £29 and £27, Miss Brocklebank said.

But the victim then turned detective, obtaining CCTV footage from the shops where her cards had been used and sharing the images on Facebook.

"The complainant received information from someone who recognised [Thornton]," said Miss Brocklebank.

"And so it was the defendant was identified for the robbery."

Thornton was arrested and made no comment but admitted offences of robbery and fraud when he appeared in court.

The victim, who asked not to be named, came to court to read out her Victim Impact Statement in person.

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She told Recorder David O'Mahony: "The robbery happened over a year ago and it still affects me. It's completely changed my behaviour. I don't want to go out at all.

"I wasn't the type of person who would jump all the time – now I am that person. Lockdown was a blessing because I couldn't go out and didn't want to.

"There have been a few times when I have had a panic attack such as when I see a male wearing a hood. It has really impacted my sleep – I'm filled with regret that I didn't do more and allowed this to happen to me. When my car was found it had fake number plates.

"I couldn't bring myself to put my personal number plates back on. The car began to feel like a bad omen and I sold it. I've lost around £2,000 as I had to replace everything in the car, my insurance premium went up and I've had extra security installed at my home."

Thornton was sentenced to three years and nine months for the robbery and one month for the fraud offences to be served concurrently.

He also admitted a charge of affray relating to a separate incident in which he attacked his sister in front of her three children.

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The court heard Thornton threw a glass at the victim after she refused to drink vodka with him.

He then punched the victim, stamped on her and dragged her by the hair while her eldest child rang 999 and described the attack to a call handler.

The victim was left with five broken ribs and bruising.

Thornton was sentenced to one year and nine months for that offence to be served consecutively meaning he faces five-and-a-half years in prison in total.

He described the sentence handed down by Judge O'Mahony as a "f***ing p***take" adding "thank you a***hole" as he was sent down to the cells.

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