A SECURITY guard has condemned Essex County Council’s decision to switch off street lights after he was mugged on a pitch-black footbridge.

Michael Smith, 39, was returning from an alarm callout at about 12.30am on Thursday when he was set upon by a thug in Upper Mayne.

The robber shoved him to the ground before stealing his bank card from his pocket and making off into the night.

Mr Smith, of Pretoria Avenue, Noak Bridge, badly hurt his knee, but managed to dial 999 on his mobile phone and stumbled to a nearby roundabout where he was picked up by police.

He said: “It’s left me really shaken. I spent all Wednesday night in Basildon police station and all day Thursday in Basildon Hospital A&E.

“Essex County Council must switch the street lights back on before more people are attacked.”

Mr Smith had attended an alarm callout at Boots Chemist, in Basildon town centre, just before midnight.

He said: “I don’t drive but the callout was not very far from my house, so I decided to walk home.

“It was about half an hour after the street lights went out and as I got out of the town centre it was pitch black – I could not see very far in front of me.

“I waswalking over the footbridge when I heard a noise behind me so I sped up. The next thing this person just shoved me to the ground, put his hand in to my pocket and took my bank card.

“Then he just ran off in to the night. It was so dark I could not really see where he went.

“I landed on my left knee and it was very painful. I called the police who told me to walk down to the roundabout where they picked me up.

“They came within about five minutes and took me to the police station. They were very good.”

Mr Smith was attacked in the stretch of road that runs parallel with Gloucester Park.

Doctors have told Mr Smith, who also works as a security guard in a Chelmsford Tesco, he has suffered soft tissue damage in his knee.

Mr Smith added: “It’s left me really nervous. Having these lights off is just putting people at risk.”

Essex County Council has turned off about 70 per cent of street lights, from midnight to 5am across the county, to save money.

They had not replied by the time the Echo went to press after being asked for a comment.