A TAXI driver aged 77 was badly beaten by teenage thugs who refused to pay an £11 fare.

Kenneth Wolfe, of Leigh, was left with a broken jaw, broken eye socket and two lost teeth after he was punched and kicked after making a drop-off outside the Sainsbury’s store, in London Road, Southend.

One of the passengers pretended to get the fare from a cash machine before he and the other passenger ran off.

Kenneth was attacked after getting out of his taxi to demand his fare, and shockingly a third man, believed to be a homeless person, joined in.

Kenneth was taken to Southend Hospital by ambulance and later transferred to Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford, because of his severe facial injuries. He is now recovering at home.

Kenneth, who worked as an auditor before becoming a taxi driver 30 years ago, said: “I’ve only tried to get people home and it’s a good profession, but this has always been a worry.

“They had no money and obviously wanted to get to Southend without paying, but it shocks me they think beating up someone of my age is a bit of a laugh. I’ve been doing late nights, but I think I’m going to do days now.”

His wife, Myra, said: “He didn’t want to stay in hospital, so the police took us home, but he may have to go back to hospital to mend the breaks because one is just below his eye and there’s a leakage of the jelly from around the eye.

“One of the injuries is to the soft palette under his mouth, so he’s finding it difficult to eat. The doctors are hoping that in six weeks it will start to mend.

“The bruising is horrendous and he can’t get out of bed because he aches all over. The whole thing is beyond belief, but everyone at the police and the hospitals were so supportive, we can’t thank them enough.”

A police spokesman said: “Detectives are investigating an assault in Southend.

A 77-year-old taxi driver picked up two men from the Golden Cross area of Ashingdon shortly before 11pm and drove them to Sainsbury’s, in London Road, Southend.

“The two men refused to pay their £11 fare and, after the man had asked them for the money again, they assaulted him, kicking him in the head and leaving him with severe facial injuries.

“The two men were joined by a third man, believed to be a local homeless person.”

Kenneth’s Ford Mondeo taxi is now being examined by forensics officers.

His attackers were white, in their late teens and were wearing dark clothing.

Anyone with information about the attack, which happened at about 11.25pm on Saturday, can call detectives at Southend police station on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.