Police tape and policemen© Roger Askew/Rex Shutterstock

Two farmworkers cheated death after they were shot at by a gang of fugitive Afghan illegal immigrants.

Staffordshire Police believe the stowaways escaped from the back of a Hungarian lorry that had stopped at Keele services on the M6, near Newcastle-under-Lyme on Saturday 10 October.

Police officers arrested seven Afghan men at the services as they jumped from the lorry. But six suspects managed to escape across the fields to nearby Racecourse Farm, Three Mile Lane.

Later that evening the two workers, Paul Dale and Ashley Beech, were returning to the farm when they spotted two men lurking near farm buildings.

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Mr Beech told Farmers Weekly: “We rolled down the farm track in Paul’s car with the lights out. Then hit the full beam.

“There were about six of them and I got out and chased them down into the building. I switched on the lights and they ran through the shed and leapt out of the back.

“Behind me, Paul had jumped into the farm pickup truck and went off after them with the wheels spinning.

“Initially I followed on in the tractor but I had called the police so headed back to the gate to let them in.

“About five minutes later the pickup came flying down the hill. Paul [Dale] was in shock and covered in glass.”

One of the Afghans had turned and shot at Paul with a small firearm.

“A bullet hit the door of the truck, smashed through the window and just missed Paul. He said he felt the air rush from the bullet as it went past his nose,” said Mr Beech.

“The bullet had gone through the driver’s side window and lodged inside the passenger door just above the seat.

“If I had been in there as well it would have hit me.”

The following day Staffordshire Police stepped up their search of the area after a police helicopter spotted movement in a nearby wood.

“At one stage on Sunday afternoon we had 60 armed officers, two vans, seven police cars and an armour-plated Land Rover on the farm,” Mr Beech said.

“But by that time I reckon the Afghan men would be many miles away.”

A spokesman for Staffordshire Police said the Afghan men were in their 20s or 30s and urged the public not to approach them.