A policeman has told of his struggle to save his partner's life as a violent criminal tried to rip her throat out with his bare hands.

Sergeant Lee Lyons bravely rallied after being stunned by a headbutt from 6ft 4in monster Anthony Scrase and took him on as he throttled PC Claire Underwood.

She was just seconds from death as Sgt Lyons rained blows on Scrase - finally managing to pull the shaven-headed thug off her limp body and save her life.

Sgt Lyons, 32, told The Argus: "I have never been in that situation where I thought a colleague's life was in danger.

"The thing that sticks in my mind is the gargling noise she made rather than her screams.

"I also realised she wasn't breathing, was pale and all the colour had drained from her.

"He was incredibly strong and immovable. What I was doing to stop him didn't seem to be having any effect."

Sgt Lyons gave Scrase a soft knock on the head with his baton but quickly realised the only way he was going to save his colleague was with a potentially fatal blow to the muscleman's skull.

Scrase, 34, of Meads Street, Eastbourne, was jailed indefinitely by Hove Crown Court yesterday for two counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and attempting to cause grievous bodily harm to PC Underwood.

Judge Charles Kemp said: "This is a most appalling and chilling tale of quite deliberate violence by you towards these officers, most particularly PC Underwood. You placed your hand around her neck and carried it on round her windpipe in an attempt to cause her grievous bodily harm.

"In the course of that action you pulled her windpipe in an expert way to stop her breathing."

Scrase has appeared in court 25 times charged with 72 offences including assault occasioning actual bodily harm in 1993 and common assault on a police officer in 1996.

He will not meet a parole board for at least four years and four months and could spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Sgt Lyons said: "Even though I went back to work shortly afterwards, it was not the end of it by any stretch of the imagination.

"I'm pleased he has received a substantial sentence."

The drama began when police were called to North Street in Eastbourne at 3.40am on August 3 last year to a red Ford Fiesta car being driven erratically.

When Sgt Lyons and PC Underwood caught up with the car it had crashed into another vehicle parked on Eastbourne seaside.

Scrase, who had got out and was staggering because he was drunk, was arrested. He allowed PC Underwood to put a handcuff on his right wrist outside the Carlton Court Hotel in Wilmington Square.

But he then exploded into a fit of violence and headbutted Sgt Lyons to the left cheek and began swinging PC Underwood around as she held on to the handcuff.

The three then fell to the ground and Scrase began to strangle PC Underwood.

In an attempt to free his partner, Sgt Lyons sprayed Scrase three times in the face with CS gas and hit him repeatedly with his baton.

It was only after Scrase was clubbed for the second time around the head that he finally let go of PC Underwood.

Detective Inspector Ian Williams, of Sussex Police, said: "We believe and have expert statements saying she was seconds from death.

"Police officers acting in their normal daily duty have been viciously attacked without provocation by an extremely dangerous man.

"He's a very big and powerful man. When he was in hospital he was under guard by a number of officers and even under heavy sedation he threatened staff and tried to attack them."