A MAN who was helping keep drivers safe on treacherous roads during heavy snow, was set upon by a gang of yobs in Poole in a “shocking and disgraceful” attack.

Gary Fooks was driving a Poole Council gritter in hilly Herbert Avenue, trying to keep the road open on Friday lunchtime, when his 18-tonne vehicle came under attack.

“A group of young lads were throwing snowballs at the lorry, I didn’t think anything of it,” said Gary, 34, a father of three from Sturminster Marshall.

But then he heard a ‘tinging’ sound as other objects were hurled at the vehicle, perhaps stones or coins he thinks.

“I stopped, I thought they were climbing on the lorry,” he said.

“With a snowplough attached to the front of a heavy vehicle, he was wary of driving on and causing injury.

He was immediately surrounded by around 15 youths, some swearing at him and he was attacked from behind, hit and punched and struck in the chest, by seven or eight of the yobs.

“They were no older than 17, that’s the worst thing,” he said.

He was left battered and bruised by the attack, which ended when a car stopped nearby and disturbed them.

Gary, who has worked for the council for 18 years, had driven through the snow from his home at Sturminster Marshall to the Hatch Pond Depot at Poole, to take the gritter out.

“We were trying to keep the public safe. What about our safety? I was lucky none of them had a knife,” he said.

Shaun Robson, head of environmental and consumer protection, Borough of Poole, described the event as “both shocking and disgraceful”.

He said: “The driver and his colleagues were tackling extremely challenging weather conditions with the purpose of making our roads safe and accessible for the community.

“The equipment they use is potentially dangerous and staff were applying skill and care to ensure that no one was at risk.

“To be assaulted whilst carrying out those duties is completely unacceptable.

“It is a sad day when an experienced and committed public servant can no longer carry out his work safely and with the support of the whole community,” he said.

Dorset Police are investigating the incident which took place around 12.15pm and the council is supporting their enquiries.

A police spokesman has appealed for any witnesses to contact them on 101 or free and anonymous Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.