SIX thugs savagely attacked a defenceless man accompanying a woman and a child in front of shocked town centre shoppers.

The gang knocked down the 30-year-old victim and crowded around to beat him up before fleeing on foot - all in full view of startled bystanders.

They attacked him outside NatWest bank in St Ann's Road, Harrow, on Tuesday lunchtime after he challenged them over comments made to the woman he was with.

He was left dazed, in a ball on the floor with the sobbing girl - who was pushing a child in a pram and was believed to be his girlfriend - looking after him.

Witness Jillian Cox said: "These blokes had set upon him. The group had made remarks about her and he answered back to them and the next minute, they're beating him up.

"I heard his girlfriend screaming. His nose was bleeding and at first he was lying there still."

Another passer-by said: "Four or five eastern European lads, in their late teens or 20s, had an argument with him and all of a sudden they punched him and he was on the floor. They looked as though they were up for trouble."

Two of the gang - five teenagers and an older man, according to a bystander - were spotted jumping on a bus to get away, while another pair ran towards Debenhams. One wore a stripey orange T-shirt.

A London Ambulance spokeswoman said: "A man was taken to Northwick Park Hospital in a serious condition."

William Goddard, a Harrow Police spokesman, said: "Police were called at 2.25pm to reports of a 30-year-old male being assaulted. The victim did not wish for police to take any further action." 

 Harrow Police are nevertheless still investigating and urge anyone with information to call the incident room on 020 8733 3441.