REFUSE collectors were threatened with a knife by men who demanded to see their mobile phones in Bournemouth.

The BCP Council team were targeted as they emptied bins in Stafford Road near Bournemouth police station at 5am yesterday.

They told how they were approached by three young men, all with London accents.

One of the team, who does not wish to be named, said: "We were pulled up in Stafford Road, near the old magistrates' court, when three lads shouted 'Oi' to me. I thought I had missed a bin and went over to them to see what they wanted.

"One of them said 'have you got the time?' and when I told him it was 10 past five he said 'show me on your phone'.

"I refused so he pulled out a bread knife and told me to hand over my phone.

"I just said 'you don't want to be doing that' and he turned away."

The victim said the knifeman then approached the refuse lorry driver and demanded to see his phone.

But the offenders spotted an armed police vehicle outside the nearby Bournemouth police station and shouted: "Quick run."

The refuse collector went on: "The driver flashed his lights at the police car and it came down the road.

"The men had made off down Old Christchurch Road but the police didn't find them. They checked if we were all right."

The incident took place near the junction with Lorne Park Road.

The man has now voiced his concerns for the safety of other people in the town centre early in the morning.

He said: "We were all right because we were together but you quite often see people like nurses waiting on their own at the bus stops.

"We get up at 3am every day and were just getting on with our jobs. You can do without it."

A spokesman for Dorset Police said: "We received a report at 5.25am on Thursday September 10 that men working in the area of Lorne Park Road in Bournemouth were approached by three men who were reported to be acting suspiciously.

"It was reported that one of the men may have been in possession of a bladed article.

"Officers attended and a search of the area was carried out but the men were not located."