A woman was subjected to a vile tirade of racial abuse by a group of youths as she walked home alone.

The 68-year-old woman, who is from the Middle East, was walking along the underpass in Station Way, Laindon, after stepping off a train, when she encountered a gang of white youths.

They called her names, swore and verbally abused her as she walked by.

When the woman, who is of Asian appearance, arrived home in Somercotes, Laindon, on Monday evening, she told her son about the incident, who called police the following day.

PC Jurgen Reid, Essex Police’s hate crime officer in the south of the county, said the incident was being categorised as a racially-aggravated public order offence and will be investigated as a crime.

He said: “The words they used caused the victim to feel alarmed and distressed.

“She said that because she was Asian, they specifically targeted her.

“We take all these reports very seriously.

“All the victims are safeguarded by one of our team and we will assist with the investigating officer with anything needed, including communication with the victim if they speak limited English, as in this case.”

The incident occurred during the National Hate Crime Awareness Week, which runs until Saturday **17**. and raises awareness of how to recognise and report hate crime.

PC Reid added: “We have certainly noticed a small increase in hate crimes being reported at the moment, which we can only put down to more publicity this week.

“People are understanding of it more. Research shows that only 15 per cent of hate crimes are reported. I would urge anyone who experiences hate crime to get in touch.”