A family feared they would be "wiped out" when a UFO plummeted from the sky, heading straight at their Hertford home.

Reports of the bizarre phenomenon poured into the Mercury after the cylindrical object was spotted on Monday at around 4pm.

But none was more dramatic than that by mum-of-four Maxine Abbess, 44, of Pages Road on the Sele Farm estate.

She said: "My little boy was lying on his back on the trampoline in the garden when he said, 'Look at that black spot in the sky, Mum'.

"We thought it was a balloon high up and then it started to suddenly fall at such a rate that we all rushed into the house. We thought it was going to land in the garden.

"We slowly came back out to look and it had come to a dead stop - it was amazing.

"Then it slowly and silently started rising up into the sky and disappeared into the clouds."

Maxine's husband, Paul, 41, the head chef of Braughing's Axe and Compasses pub, their eldest son Sam, 18, and other sons, Aston, 11, Ayrton, 10, and Jenson, 8 - pupils at Wheatcroft School in Hertford who are named after fast cars and Formula 1 drivers - also saw the shape.

Maxine added: "It was terrifying. We really feared it was going to fall on us and wipe us all out.

"It was sausage-shaped and very dark. It wasn't a Zeppelin as there was no engine noise and it definitely wasn't a balloon. It was made out of metal."

Hertford office worker Jodie Enright estimated it was 500ft up when she saw it.

She said: "I spotted the UFO from my office window. It looked black, but it reflected the sun.

"It was floating up Caxton Hill from the direction of Ware Road, up and over our factory.

"It probably took 10 minutes to travel this distance and appeared to be listing and yawing in the wind.

"It was definitely cylindrical in shape and, as it appeared closer, you could see a square shape hanging from the end of the cylinder."

A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman said: "If someone has invaded our air space we will be able to say whether the Russians have come or not.

"Our official who records UFO sightings has no reports of this incident."