AN OFF-DUTY police officer was "savagely" attacked by a gang of youths after forcing them off a bus because they did not have tickets.

The Ealing sergeant, who has not been named, confronted the teenagers when they boarded the number 65 bus in South Ealing just after midnight on Sunday, September 24.

Two of the gang did not have tickets, but once the 55-year-old policeman had forced them off the bus, he was set upon and headbutted to the floor.

Head of Ealing CID, Detective Superintendent Chris Foster, said the attack was the worst he had ever seen on an officer.

"This is a completely unprovoked and savage attack on an serving police officer. These youths have shown no regard for authority and have used substantial force against the officer leaving him with serious facial injuries.

"I doubt that the suspects will have kept quiet about this incident and will have spoken about this vicious assault to many people."

The officer suffered a fractured cheekbone, a broken nose and a broken jaw during the assault.

Mr Foster said he thought the teenagers were local as they were seen running towards the Trees Estate.

The policeman, who has served in the force for 26 years, was returning from a day out with friends having been to a rugby match.

"It is typical of his good character that he stepped in," said Mr Foster. "That is what I expect of my officers.

"My men are essentially on duty 24/7. He came to the assistance of the bus driver who was being abused and has ended up being hospitalised."

As the policeman was getting to his feet, the ringleader who was running away from the scene suddenly turned back and directed a "flying headbutt" at the officer.

"The guy has got some sort of perverse fun out of this," said Mr Foster.

The attacker is described as black, between 16 and 18 years-old, around 6ft tall, athletic build, clean-shaven, with long black dreadlocks possibly tied in a ponytail, and a London accent. He was wearing a black and white hoody, white t-shirt, and dark jeans.

Police are also trying to trace a woman who offered to pay two of the youths' bus fares.

l Anyone with information should call Ealing Borough Police on 020 8721 7047/60 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.