POLICE were called to one of Weymouth's most popular seafood restaurants after a group of 12 diners allegedly abused the owner and customers, before fleeing without paying their £468 bill.

Chef Eric Tavernier, owner of Les Enfants Terribles on Custom House Quay, said it was the latest devastating blow for his business after months of being unable to welcome customers due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

He has released CCTV images to the Echo of the diners he claims left without paying.

Mr Tavernier - who last year hosted football legend David Beckham for dinner at his harbourside restaurant – claims the party who visited last Saturday ate an extravagant seafood feast of lobster, oysters, prawns and sea bass before becoming aggressive and threatening to punch another customer.

He believes the group of three men, three women and six children had deliberately booked a table for 5pm, knowing the restaurant would be busy, and insisted on sitting outside so they had an easier route to leave without paying the bill.

He said: "It was strange because they insisted they didn't want to go inside.

"An initial deposit was taken, but there seems now to have been a problem with the card over the weekend."

Mr Tavernier said that after finishing their meal, the group stood up and started to leave, at which point he was alerted by his staff.

He claims: "One of my lovely customers ran after them but they couldn't do much because it was a very large group.

"The problem was that there was more people outside and then they got involved and it got out of control.

"They tried to fight us, they tried to fight me and my staff, they were shouting at my guests because my guests were trying to get videos. Nobody was hurt, but it was very close, and then the police arrived.

"At that point, other people not part of the group were getting involved and it was getting really, really out of hand. I was so scared.

"Afterwards I did not sleep. I just watched the cameras because I was so scared that they might come back."

Mr Tavernier said he almost decided to close the restaurant for a short while because he said he was "exhausted" and his staff had gone through so much. But, because of how much money has already been lost this year due to lockdown, he could not afford to turn customers away.

"We were closed for so long, and in July we lost money also because we had 150 no-shows. Now I have to make back £468 also," he said.

"I just hope the police find them because they could move on to another place or come back."

A Dorset Police spokesman said that enquiries into the incident were ongoing but that no arrests have been made.

Anyone with information should contact Dorset Police via www.dorset.police.uk, email 101@dorset.pnn.police.uk or call 101, quoting occurrence 55200113644.