A decorator almost lost his leg and will have to learn to walk again after he suffered a horrific bite from Britain's most poisonous spider.
Ricki Whitmore, 39, was injured when he disturbed a nest of flesh-eating false widows while working at a school and will be off his feet for six months.
Surgeons were forced to slice open his leg and flush out the venom after his thigh swelled to twice its normal size.
Experts said today that 10million of the spiders - a cousin of the deadly black widow - could be swarming around Britain and heading into homes to escape the cold.
- Ricki Whitmore was bitten by a false widow while decorating a classroom
- A&E doctors had to slice open the 39-year-old's leg and flush out poison
- Shocking images show how close he was to losing leg to common UK spider
- Warmer summers help population grow before they head indoors for winter
Horrific: A huge scar on Ricki Whitmore's thigh after he had to undergo emergency surgery after being bitten by the UK's most venomous spider, the false widow
Nasty bite: Mr Whitmore was bitten by the false widow spider, pictured, which is related to the deadly black widow
Intense treatment: Ricki Whitmore, pictured with his step-son Stanley (back), son Ricki jnr (front left) and daughter Olivia, will now have to undergo months of physiotherapy just to walk again
Mr Whitmore, from Romford in Essex, will now have to undergo six months of specialist physiotherapy and admitted: 'I am just lucky to still have my leg'.
WHERE IS THE FALSE WIDOW FROM AND WHY ARE THEY THRIVING?
'There was a really sharp pain and then my leg started to throb,' he told the Daily Star.
'I managed to get home, but by the time I arrived my thigh had swollen to twice its normal size.
'They tried to put a drain in his thigh. The skin ruptured and pus oozed out. It was revolting – it smelt like someone had died.'
He is one of a number of people across the UK to suffer nasty bites from the spideramid fears that numbers are soaring.
With temperatures outside plummeting as the winter months approach, millions of the spiders could make their way into homes across the country to escape the cold.
Traditionally they were only found in the south of England, but there nests being found in Wales and Scotland.
Mr Whitmore told how he was attacked by the spider, which can bite when threatened, because he never normally kills the creatures and instead tried to brush it out of the way as he worked.
His wife Carrie said that she was horrified when her husband staggered through the door of the family home looking pale and sweaty.
Once surgeons had initially flushed the poison out of his leg, Mr Whitmore had to have his thigh 'washed' eight times in the ensuing weeks.
Experts believe that the spiders my be thriving in the UK because of a wet start to the summer followed by a heatwave.
Long-term climate change may also be to blame, leading spiders to set up home in new areas.
But some experts say many sightings of false widows could in fact be the common house spider.
False widows are distinctive for their shiny, black flesh, bulbous bodies, thick legs and skull-like patterns on their backs.
Injured: Footballer Steve Harris has been sidelined after having to undergo emergency surgery following a false widow bite
Painful: Defender Steve Harris, 22, had to undergo an emergency operation where surgeons had to cut away the poison leaving him with an open wound (pictured)
A 22-year-old footballer from Devon also needed emergency surgery after a nasty bite from the spider.
THE BASICS: HOW TO AVOID BITESAND WHAT TO DO IF YOU GET ONE
Steve Harris was left with a massive gash in his side after doctors had to cut away the poisoned section of his body.
Steve said: 'When I woke up I had a pain in my side - a stinging feeling. I didn't take that much notice until it started swelling and the pain got worse.
'I was in agony. I have never had pain like that before in my life. It's still very painful now. I still can't sleep properly and find it virtually impossible to get in and out of a car.'
Two other people also needed hospital treatment after being bitten by the spider in south London.
William Fraser, 14, was bitten at his home in Sutton on Thursday evening by a spider that is believed to have got into his bedroom.
He woke the following day with a small bite mark on his forearm but by the time he got home from school on Friday his condition had worsened.
Mother Sarah Fraser said: 'The whole of his forearm had swollen from elbow to wrist.
'We gave him an anti-histamine and paracetamol. The next day he seemed to get better but on Sunday he just got worse and worse. He was feeling ill and he had to go to bed.
'We got him up to St Helier and the doctors and nurses hadn't even heard of false widows.
Another victim: William Fraser, 14, was bitten (left) at his home in on Thursday evening by a spider that is believed to be a false widow (stock image, right)
Alexander Giordano, 39, of Broomloan Lane in Sutton, was bitten on his shoulder and wrist
His arm started hurting and his hand went numb and, as a childhood leukaemia sufferer, his immune system is weak so he went to A&E
'When we showed them the article [in the local paper] the doctor seemed very concerned and wanted to keep him in overnight.'
Poisonous: The spiders, which are thought to be thriving in the UK, are related to the black widow
In the end William was allowed home following a strong dose of penicillin and his condition has improved.
Alexander Giordano, 39, of Broomloan Lane in Sutton, was bitten on his shoulder and wrist.
His arm started hurting and his hand went numb and, as a childhood leukaemia sufferer, his immune system is weak so he went to A&E to be checked over and was put on a course of antihistamines, antibiotics and cream for the affected areas.
Spider experts say the animals only usually bite when threatened and if people are bitten they are best to treat the bites themselves and stop them from becoming infected.
Conservation officer Greg Hitchock, who works at the Kent Wildlife Trust, called for calm over the false widow.
He said: 'Lots of people said they have been absolutely sure that the spiders they have seen are false widows, but they’re not at all. It’s not that straight-forward.
'The problem with sipders is that they are unpopular and not many people study them.
'Many of the "sightings" reported are probably not false widows at all.
'I think long-term, global warming could have led to an increase in the spider population.
'But any warm winter weather we had last year was followed by a very harsh March.'
'I now never leave my window open at night': Mother-of-three with arachnophobia wakes up with poisonous false widow on her pillow
A mother-of-three with a phobia of spiders thought her nightmares had come true when she woke up to see one of the flesh-eating false widows currently plaguing Britain on her pillow.
Terrified Donna Bradbury, 31, had a lucky escape after spotting the poisonous spider staring back at her.
The terrifying spiders have swarmed into homes across Britain as they scurry inside to escape the cold.
Terrifying: Donna Bradbury with the 'False Widow' spider, she found on her pillow when she woke up
The spiders can cause horrific injuries if they sink their fangs into unsuspecting victims.
Luckily Donna - who suffers from arachnophobia - managed to leap out of bed before the evil spider had a chance to bite her.
Today Ms Bradbury from Northampton, said she thought she would be bitten in the face.
She said: 'It's lucky I spotted it when I did.
'Sometimes my youngest, who is 19 months old, comes in the bed and sleeps with me.
'I'm guessing it came in through the window which I'd left slightly open as it had been hot in the night.
'I caught it myself, I wasn't leaving it in the room.
'And I didn't want to try to swat it because I didn't know where it would end up.
'I saw a story not that long ago about the effects a bite had on a man who got bitten by a false widow- and I was seconds away from suffering the same fate.
'So when I go to bed now I do tend to look over the duvet closely, and I don't leave the window open at night now.'