A 63-year-old father was left with a fractured back after being run down in his driveway by home invaders early yesterday.

The man and his 29-year-old son were badly beaten with a weapon shortly after 5am. They were later taken to hospital.

A bloodstained duvet lay last night on the driveway of the Epsom home, where it had covered the father as he waited for an ambulance.

A neighbour who came to help the pair said the attackers had run over the older man as he chased them.

"They tried to turn around in the drive. I think that's when they hit him. We've heard he has a broken back, and he just lay there bleeding for half an hour. I don't know why ... Why him?"

Another neighbour said the beating, which lasted 20 minutes, had rendered the father and son unrecognisable. "There was blood everywhere. I could barely see who it was. [The father] was literally caked in it. I was sure he was dead."

The neighbour said he had woken to the sounds of screaming. "At first I thought it was just drunken kids on the street, but then I heard shouts of 'Help'. There was a huge amount of noise."

He said the attackers had picked on a gentle family. "I have known them for nearly 15 years. You couldn't get nicer neighbours if you tried.

"Sometimes I come home and they've cleaned my garden for me, the whole thing. Amazing people."

Detective Sergeant Graeme Timms described the attack as gruesome and cowardly and said the victims' injuries were nearly fatal.

The father suffered severe head injuries, a fractured back and a cut wrist. The younger man had cuts and bruises to his face. A third female member of the family was uninjured.

The getaway vehicle was damaged after hitting a wall. The car is described as a late-model, dark-green saloon. It has a broken rear bumper on the passenger side and a missing wing mirror on the driver's side.

The three men are believed to be Pacific Islanders, aged in their late teens or early twenties. They are all 1.8m to 1.9m tall and of medium build, and are believed to have been wearing dark clothing.

If you have any information, please contact Mr Timms at the Glen Innes police station on (09) 524-1910 or 027-475-766.