A MAN who wielded a knife as he chased a gang who had been tormenting him has been warned that he could face jail.

Matthew O’Dowd decided to arm himself after a group of men trashed his home before beating him up in the street for an unknown reason, magistrates were told.

On Monday, a vicar driving through Spennymoor spotted the 24-year-old pulling a knife from the back of his trousers then chased a white van down the street.

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The vicar alerted police who found O’Dowd a short while later and arrested him, said Vicky Wilson, prosecuting.

O’Dowd, of Stratton Street, Spennymoor, admitted possessing an offensive weapon and using threatening behaviour when he appeared at Newton Aycliffe Magistrates' Court today .

Ms Wilson said the clergyman was highly alarmed after seeing O’Dowd brandish the eight-inch kitchen knife shortly before noon on Cambridge Street.

He saw O’Dowd remonstrating with someone inside the van which then drove away when he pulled the knife out.

Warren Ridley, mitigating, said his client had taken the knife to defend himself in the event of further attacks after the group of men had begun targeting him for no apparent reason.

He added that O’Dowd was evicted from his home on Craddock Street, Spennymoor, after the gang went on a destructive rampage through the house.

On Saturday, he added, the group attacked O’Dowd in the street for the fourth time in recent weeks leaving him with facial injuries, which were clearly visible in court.

“Mr O’Dowd understands the police are there to deal with such matters but because of the identity of these people and the associations they have he felt he could not report them to officers," he added.

Monday was the first time O’Dowd, a recovering drug addict, had been out of his home since the last attack.

Mr Ridley said that O’Dowd had to go to the chemist to collect a methadone prescription and was so fearful of further attacks he had taken the knife.

As he was walking to the chemist, the van containing his tormentors pulled up alongside so O’Dowd pulled out the blade and waved it towards them, the court heard.

Magistrates heard the starting point for brandishing a knife is custody and decided the case was too serious for them to deal with.

They also heard he is currently subject to a 16 week prison sentence suspended for 14 months imposed in May.

O’Dowd was remanded into custody to appear at Durham Crown Court for sentencing on July 15.