A LEWISHAM traffic warden has refused to let an encounter with a mental patient who waved a gun in his face, keep him away from his job.

The 33-year-old man, who has been a warden for two years, had the gun shoved into his face as he worked in Brockley Road, Brockley, last Wednesday.

He had been ticketing a car when he noticed the man watching him. As he turned away, the man approached him and demanded to know the exact time.

The warden said: "As I looked up from my watch there was this gun in my face. I froze, the guy was babbling on about train fares and telling me he was going to shoot me.

"I could not believe this was happening in broad daylight and I feared for my life. I now know what it means when they say your life flashes before your eyes - I saw my wife and kids."

The gunman then calmly walked off and the warden ran into a nearby shop where police were called to the scene.

A man who was arrested later was found to have a toy gun in his possession and was taken to the Maudsley Mental Hospital after police said he was unfit to be charged.

The victim, who did not want to be named, said: "I am still very shaken up by what happened. In this job you expect to get some stick but I never expected to face a gun. I am determined not to let this put me off working. I will be back on the streets very soon."

Leslie Brooks, traffic warden manager at the Wearside Depot in Ladywell, said it was possible her colleague had been attacked because he was wearing a uniform.

She said: "It's likely he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but our wardens have been kicked, punched and pushed by people angry at receiving tickets. One woman even had a car reverse into her and she has never worked here again."

Lewisham Council said it had taken five people to court in the past two years for attacking its wardens.

Action has been taken against five people in the past four years. One received a caution and the others were told to pay compensation to their victims and/or a fine ranging from £75 to £250.

Converted for the new archive on 30 June 2000.Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.