A HOODED robber who went on a drink and drug-fuelled crime spree after the collapse of his business was last night starting a four-year jail sentence.

Previously successful entrepreneur Richard Boyer "sunk in a spiral of despair" when he lost his livelihood, his barrister told Teesside Crown Court.

In a matter of hours over March 20 and 21, the 37-year-old threatened a shop worker with a huge hunting knife and attacked two innocent men in the street.

Duncan McReddie, mitigating, told the court that Boyer was "virtually oblivious to his behaviour" as a result of the booze and drugs he had consumed.

"Although he accepts the allegations, he has very little recollection, even now, as to what actually took place during those hours," said Mr McReddie.

"It is an explanation for his extreme conduct. Whilst there are previous convictions, and some may be relevant, there is nothing on this scale.

"This was a bout of violent criminal conduct while he is deprived of his faculties through intoxication. This is not particularly attractive mitigation."

The court heard how Boyer had a hood and a scarf masking his face when he struck at a snack shop attached to a filling station in Ormesby, Middlesbrough.

Prosecutor David Crook said he put a sheathed hunting knife on the counter, held another blade in his hand and demanded money from the till.

The terrified cashier handed over £70 and was then forced to put three bottles of whisky and four boxes of cigarettes in a bag produced by Boyer.

The raider fled and just hours later, he kicked and punched two young men at a cashpoint machine in Middlesbrough town centre, knocking one of them out.

Boyer, who had run a fishing tackle and supplies shop, admitted robbery, two charges of possessing a bladed article and two of actul bodily harm.

The court heard that he has previous convictions for affray, driving with excess alcohol, theft and battery, and has served a jail term for assault. Judge Peter Bowers told Boyer, of Rowen Close, Ingleby Barwick, Stockton: "People in a petrol kiosk are fairly vulnerable to being attacked."