A circus sword swallower who skewered himself in front of a live audience in Croydon has returned to the stage.

Hannibal Helmurto, 30, the newest freak' to join the Circus of Horrors, tried to force a four-foot long sabre down his throat on the Croydon leg of his tour in November.

But the German performer accidentally stabbed himself at the Fairfield Halls show when his sphincter failed to open correctly because of a throat infection.

He was rushed to St George's hospital in Tooting where surgeons decided whether or not to operate.

For one audience member who fainted, the shock was just too great, and the interval had to be extended for half an hour as paramedics were called.

Former tax inspector Helmurto was kept in intensive care under observation for three weeks and was unable to eat or drink.

The blade pierced the inside of his respiratory tract. But doctors decided to let the throat repair itself rather than operate.

On Friday the entertainer took to the stage for the first time since receiving his self-inflicted injury.

Helmurto, who has more than 200 tatoos, said: "The accident was just one of those freak moments and it certainly hasn't put me off performing."

Hailing from Germany, he has spent 10 years modifying' his body after seeing the Circus of Horrors in his home town of Munich in 1996.

"I was working for the German government at the time," he said. "I did not have one tattoo or piercing but after seeing the show I knew I had to join it."

And now the performer boasts there is more ink on his skin than blood running in his veins.

He also has giant yoyos fitted inside his earlobes and his tongue has been sliced with a laser to ensure it is permanently forked.

His stage show sees him insert huge hat pins through his face then drink water and squirt it out through the holes.

The self-taught' Bavarian staples £10 notes to his forehead and dangles himself from just two meat hooks rammed through his back.