A POSTMAN suffered horrific bites to his hands after being attacked by a dog originally bred to hunt lions.

Les Darke, from Shoebury , spent five days in hospital undergoing two operations after the attack by a Rhodesian ridgeback in Great Wakering.

Still in pain more than a month after the attack and plagued by nightmares, Mr Darke had to take three weeks off work after his wrist became infected from the bites, which tore deep into his flesh.

He said: “It has made me worry about the houses I’m visiting.

“I back off if I hear a dog barking.”

The owner of the dog had to wrestle it away after it bit Mr Darke’s hand, leaving six deep puncture wounds in the palm and two to the wrist.

Mr Darke had been delivering a package to a house in Barling Road when the dog darted out from behind the owner and latched onto his hand.

Fearing a second bite, Mr Darke fled to his van and wrapped his hand, which was pouring with blood, in a handkerchief. His manager took him to Southend A&E.

Surgeons operated twice on the hand after the deep wound, which cut down to the joint, became infected. He has since suffered nightmares about the attack.

Mr Darke, 54, of Kingfisher Close, has been bitten several times over his 25-year delivery career, but last month’s attack was the worst.

He said: “When I went into hospital, a couple of the people I saw thought it was par for the course. It’s just what we do. Some even made jokes about it, but it’s not like that. It’s serious.”

A Freedom of Information request by the Echo earlier this month revealed postmen in south Essex have suffered more than 300 dog attacks and 17 assaults from people over the past five years.

My Darke reported the attack to the police, but when the Echo contacted them for comment, we were told they would not be able to confirm details of the incident or say whether the law applies in this case because the officer on charge isn’t available.