DETECTIVES are appealing for a passer-by to contact them after the home of an elderly woman was burgled.

The man was walking past the house in Pine Avenue, Newton-le-Willows as the crook escaped.

The 88-year-old victim saw the member of the public look in the direction of the offender as he fled.

But police say the onlooker may not have realised a crime had been committed.

Detective Constable John Gannon from St Helens CID, said: "This was not a violent incident and the offender pretended he was a neighbour so it may be that this passer-by did not know what was going on.

“The victim believes they acknowledged each other so it could be that the man was being friendly and saying 'good evening'.

“It is crucial that we trace this witness and speak to him as he may have information that could help our investigation."

The incident happened at 7.30pm last Tuesday (November 6) and detectives are appealing for anyone who was in Pine Avenue at that time to report anything suspicious.

DC Gannon added: "There were two big football matches on TV that night - Manchester City and Arsenal - and it could be that this man was walking to a local pub or club to watch the game. I would urge local people to cast their minds back to last Tuesday and call me if it was them."

The witness was walking along Pine Avenue towards its junction with Park Avenue North and Park Avenue South.

The burglar was aged between 30 and 40, white, of medium build and clean-shaven, He smashed a rear kitchen window and climbed inside before searching the house.

When he was disturbed by the woman, he pretended to be a concerned neighbour who had heard a bang and come to investigate.

He then made his excuses when the woman became suspicious.

Last week the Star reported how a veteran of World War II in Newton was targeted by conmen who posed as water board officials before burgling his home.

Neighbourhood officers will be in Pine Avenue this week to reassure local residents and to ask passers-by if they remember anything unusual from last week.

Call St Helens CID on 0151 777 6843 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.