A ROMSEY driver has told how he was punched in the face and stabbed in the leg after refusing to hand over his takings.

Steve Mason described the traumatic moment a passenger plunged a blade into his thigh after ordering him to stop at a deserted spot in the Hampshire countryside.

Having failed to grab any money the would-be robber fled, leaving the fillet knife embedded in his victim's leg.

The 59-year-old father of two was taken to Southampton General Hospital, where he was treated for facial injuries and knife wounds to his hand and thigh.

Mr Mason, owner of Romsey-based Cavendish Executive Cars, told how a seemingly routine journey turned to terror.

He said: "A passenger got into my car in Botley Road, Romsey, just after 1.30am on New Year's Day and asked to go to Awbridge.

"He kept asking me if I'd had a busy night. It's the sort of thing people often say to taxi drivers but looking back I think he was trying to find out if I'd taken much money.

"We were in the middle of nowhere when he told me to pull over.

"He demanded to know where I kept my money and started searching the vehicle. When I told him he wasn't having my takings he punched me in the face several times and then produced a knife.

"I'm quite a big bloke but I was absolutely petrified.

"As he brought the knife down he cut my hand and then stabbed me in the leg, which was incredibly painful.

"After that he got out of the car and disappeared into the night. I didn't see which way he went - I was more concerned with the injury to my leg.

"I took the knife out and put my hand on the wound to try to stem the flow of blood."

Mr Mason called for an ambulance and alerted one of his colleagues, Vic Issac, who also dashed to his aid. Police with sniffer dogs scoured the area but there was no sign of the knifeman.

The vicious attack has left Mr Mason with a black eye and a pronounced limp.

He said: "It's quite a deep wound - about four or five centimetres - and feels as if someone's thumped me really hard on the leg.

"What gives anyone the right to try to steal someone else's hard-earned takings. All he's done is cause a lot of grief to me and my family without any gain to himself.

"I've been a taxi driver for about seven or eight years and this is the first time I've experienced violence of any sort.

"He might have stabbed me in anger after I refused to hand over any money. Alternatively it could have been an attempt to prevent me chasing after him, which I probably wouldn't have done anyway.

"It's made me wonder if I want to drive at night in the future. I definitely won't be doing another New Year's Eve."

The attempted robbery took place at Danes Road in Shootash.

The knifeman is described as white, aged in his mid-twenties, about 5ft 10in, slim to medium build,

with short brown hair.. He was wearing a long black jacket, a dark-coloured shirt and possibly jeans.

PC David Barnes, of Hampshire police, said: “This is a rare and unusual incident that may well have been opportunistic.

“It is suspected that the offender may have been in the Romsey town centre area before this incident."

Anyone with information should call police on 101, quoting crime reference number 44180000328. Alternatively, they can call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.