FAMILIES are being warned to be on their guard after twomen armed with rifles threatened a dog-walker in a public park.

A 21-year-old man was walking his dog through Thundersley Glen, off Kiln Road, when two unidentified men carrying weapons turned their guns on him at about 4pm on Saturday.

The terrified man fled the scene and called police. Armed officers and the force helicopter scoured the area, but couldn’t find the pair.

The victim’s sister, a 40-year-old woman from Benfleet who wished to remain anonymous, wants people to be aware when walking through the woods.

She said: “It was such an awful thing to have happened to him.

“My brother was in shock, to be honest, that these men would point a gun at him and laugh as though they would shoot. It is so intimidating.

“As soon as he left the park he rang the police and they sent out a helicopter and a patrol car.

“My brother was mostly worried about other people being at risk because there were families around at the time as well.

“Anyone who walks through there needs to be on their guard because they could come back.”

A police spokeswoman said: “Police were contacted shortly after 4pm on Saturday, following reports two men had been walking along Thundersley Glen in Benfleet a short time earlier, both holding firearms.

“Armed officers carried out a search with the police helicopter assisting overhead. The search was called off at 5pm as there was no trace of the men.”

The younger man was in his early to mid-twenties, about 6ft 1is tall, of medium build, with short brown hair and a goatee beard.

The other man is thought to have been in his early thrities, about 5ft 10ins tall, stocky, with brown hair which was receding slightly.

Both were wearing military boots and it is thought they were hunting wildlife.

Thundersley Glen is managed by Castle Point Council as a public open space.

Park ranger Tony Doveaston said it was not the first time people had illegally taken weapons into the park.

He said: “We are really concerned about this because this is not only detrimental to wildlife, but is an issue of public safety.

“We do not want residents intimidated like that when they come through the park.

“We have had people shoot air rifles before, but to point a rifle at a person and laugh is dangerous because they could have fired at any time. People are not allowed to carry weapons in a public open space.

“We had a problem like this quite a few years ago, when two youngsters were arrested by the police.Wewould urge anyone who sees them to call the police and the council immediately.”

To contact the council, ring 01268 882200 or the out-of-hours number, 01268 758357.