A MAN was fighting for his life today after being beaten up at a taxi rank outside Southampton's busy Leisureworld complex.

Andrew Heath, 29, from the Lordshill area, underwent emergency surgery at Southampton General Hospital after suffering severe head injuries in the attack last night. A hospital spokeswoman today described his condition as "critical but stable" in the intensive-care unit.

Police said the area around Leisureworld had been busy at the time of the attack just before 11pm last night, with crowds attending the cinema complex, casino and numerous bars and restaurants.

Today, Detective Inspector Dennis Stephens, head of Southampton Central CID, said: "The incident took place near the taxi rank, which adjoins the car park and main entrance doors to Leisureworld.

"We are keen to hear from taxi drivers or anyone who was in the area at the time who may have information about the assault."

This morning, the area around the taxi rank stayed sealed off as forensic experts looked for clues.

Police were also questioning customers as they left the complex late last night, to try to trace potential witnesses to the incident, being treated as a serious assault. It is understood Mr Heath had been out with friends and was trying to catch a taxi home when the attack happened.

Paramedics raced to the scene and took the victim to Southampton General Hospital, where doctors performed an emergency operation late last night.

An 18-year-old woman from Southsea and two men from Southampton, aged 19 and 30, were in custody helping with inquiries.

Anyone with information should call Southampton Central CID on 0845 045 4545, or the free and anonymous Southern Crimestoppers line on 0800 555111.