A TAXI driver was attacked after picking up two men from a popular casino in Southend.

Police were called by colleagues at the ambulance service at about 12.30am on Friday after the cabbie was assaulted.

The driver had picked up the thugs from outside Rendezvous Casino shortly after midnight and drove them to North Street, Rochford.

One of the men got out of the car and assaulted the driver before both of them left without paying for the journey.

The men were described as white, aged between 30 and 40, with one of the men wearing a white jacket.

The incident has sent shock waves through the community.

Cliff Short, 64, a retired cab driver from Leigh, previously set up a Facebook page called “Attacks on cab drivers” to inform drivers of such incidents.

He said: “This doesn’t surprise me and that’s a sad state of affairs.

“Cab drivers are very vulnerable and it’s become so violent for drivers. I think there should be a mandatory ten-year sentence for anyone who attacks a taxi driver.”

Mike Steptoe, Tory councillor for Roche South, said: “My sympathies go out to the victim and I really hope they are doing ok.

“I am sure the police will be doing their upmost to find who did this and we will work fully with the police.

“It is a form of mugging.

“Obviously if I was a taxi driver, I would be looking at my security. I am sure taxi firms will be doing this and we will be also be working with them and doing our best to support them.”

Residents also slammed the vicious thugs who set upon the driver.

Barbara Cox, 73, of Weir Pond Road, Rochford, said: “Well I think this is absolutely disgusting, this taxi driver is just trying to earn a living and these awful people have come along and taken some of this away.

“I think this sort of thing will cause some fear and concern in the taxi driver community as a whole.

“We can’t have this sort of thing going on in our community, and we must stand strong against it.

“I really hope this driver is doing ok now and isn’t too badly shaken up.”

Police are appealing for witnesses.

Anyone with information are asked to contact Southend CID on 101 or independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111, quoting crime reference number 42/150275/19.