Facial mapping experts snare hooded robbers by matching their mug shots to grainy CCTV

  • 81-year-old pensioner feared she would be raped or murdered
  • Two men ransacked her flat and stole her pension money
  • Suspects caught after police noted contours on one man's cheek and matched CCTV image to digital mugshot database

Two men who terrorised an old lady have been jailed after police used a 'facial mapping' expert to confirm the identity of one of the suspects who had been captured by CCTV.

Barry Hilton, 48, and Thomas Pearson, 42, robbed an 81-year old woman at her home in Manchester, putting a pillow over her face to stifle her screams when she woke to find them in her bedroom at 5am.

The pair were caught on CCTV outside their victim's flat at a sheltered housing complex in Fallowfield, Manchester.

Pearson's face was partially obscured by his hood but his left cheek was visible. A forensic facial mapping scientist was called in to give a positive identification.

Officers noted the contours of Pearson's left cheek using a still from the CCTV image

Facial mapping: Officers noted the contours of Pearson's left cheek using a still from the CCTV image. They could then search a digital database for the closest match

The pair ransacked the woman's property and stole her handbag, which contained her £300 pension money.

Detective constable Adam Cronshaw explained, 'Officers picked up the pair a couple of days after the robbery as they were acting suspiciously and wearing very similar clothes to the men caught on the CCTV footage.

'Officers had noticed that in the CCTV one of the faces was partially uncovered, so we took photographs of one suspect while he was in custody, from the same angle as the video footage.

'A forensic facial mapping scientist examined both the CCTV stills and the photographs we'd taken and supported the prosecution's case that one of the males in the CCTV was Thomas Pearson.'

On the day of the trial Pearson pleaded guilty. Hilton had earlier pleaded guilty as his fingerprints were found in the victim's flat.

Both men were career villains with a string of convictions and the old lady was targeted because Pearson knew where she lived, as his late father lived in the same complex. 

The woman told police: 'I was terrified I would be pulled out of the bed and kicked which would make me an invalid. I feared I would be raped or murdered.

'Hoodie robber' Thomas Pearson, left
'Hoodie robber' Barry Hilton, right

Identified: Hilton and Pearson thought they had got away with their crime initially, but police closely examined the CCTV footage and used a digital mugshot database to pinpoint the criminals

'However after they left I was able to deal with the incident in my mind as I’m very religious. I believe the robbery was fate and sent to challenge my faith.'

At Manchester Crown Court, Hilton was jailed four years and five months and Pearson was jailed for five years and eight months after both pleaded guilty to robbery.

Greater Manchester Police said the aid occurred on August 9 2011 when the pensioner, who lives alone, woke up to find the men in her bedroom searching through her bedside drawer.

They demanded money, then covered her face with a pillow to stop her from screaming. The woman’s handbag was later found dumped on a nearby street without the money.

Detectives launched inquiries and managed to trace CCTV footage which showed Hilton and Pearson walking towards the victim’s flat at 5.09am.

At 7.55am on Sunday 14 August 2011, police officers attended a report of men behaving suspiciously on bikes in Rusholme and arrested Hilton and Pearson in relation to other offences.

Hilton was wearing a blue top that was identical to the one being worn by one of the men on CCTV footage near the victim’s flat.

Grainy: The CCTV of the suspects lurking outside the woman's flat was captured at 3.04am on August 10 last year

Grainy: The CCTV of the suspects lurking outside the woman's flat was captured on August 10 last year

Hilton’s fingerprints were fast tracked whilst in custody and matched those recovered from the victim’s flat.

Pearson, who had knowledge of the flat complex because his father previously lived there, was later recognised in further CCTV footage that was recovered showing him without his his face being concealed.

He denied it was him but a facial mapping expert’s analysis report provided vital supporting evidence that it was him.

Detective Constable Adam Cronshaw from Greater Manchester Police said: 'This was a terrible crime on a defenceless 81-year-old lady woman who has been sadly affected as a direct result of Hilton and Pearson’s actions.

'To be woken and robbed in the middle of the night, in your own home, must be terrifying for anyone but especially an 81-year-old single woman.

'GMP will always relentlessly pursue anyone who commits this type of crime until they are brought to justice.'

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