A MASKED axeman left a police officer terrified as he rained down blows on his patrol car, smashing through the windscreen feet from his face, a court was told.

Martin McLernon, “who could not take no for an answer” from a former girlfriend, had driven from his home in Scotland to confront her in the Bishop Auckland area, at one point contacting her former partner and threatening to “chop him up”.

PC Andrew Cockfield, was alerted by a headteacher concerned at McLernon driving repeatedly around the woman’s son’s school.

The Northern Echo: Martin McLernon pictured with an axe in his handMartin McLernon pictured with an axe in his hand

In a statement read to Durham Crown Court, he described how McLernon ignored requests to pull over, before stopping suddenly, without indicating.

PC Cockfield said: “The driver’s door immediately opened sharply and the driver got out quickly. He was wearing black ski mask and brandishing an axe.

“When I saw this I immediately put the vehicle in reverse in an attempt to get out of his way. Within a metre or so the back of my vehicle struck a telegraph post bringing it to a halt and effectively trapping me there.

The Northern Echo: The damage to the rear of the officer's car as he tried to make his escape from Martin McLernonThe damage to the rear of the officer's car as he tried to make his escape from Martin McLernon

“The man walked straight to my vehicle, striding with purpose. He moved off to the driver’s side of the vehicle and began swinging the axe toward the windscreen, with the first swing striking and smashing the glass.

“He then continued swinging the axe at the windscreen directly in front of my face, ten to 12 times (also damaging the dashboard).”

The Northern Echo: The smashed windscreen of the officer's patrol car following the axe attackThe smashed windscreen of the officer's patrol car following the axe attack

He added: “At some point during this incident I pressed my panic button on the radio. I did not think he intended to stop swinging the axe. I genuinely thought my life was in danger.”

As quickly as the attack started, McLernon calmly turned and walked back to his own vehicle before escaping to Scotland, where he was arrested two days later.

Sentencing the 26-year-old to 31 months in prison, Recorder Ian Harris said: “The area that you hit on the windscreen was right in front of where the officer was sitting. Part of it was penetrated by the ferocity of the blows of the axe.

“PC Cockfield said in his 12 years of service he had never been so fearful for his life.”

Martin Towers, prosecuting, said the woman had a friendship with McLernon, which briefly became a relationship.

He said: “From her point of view she did want that relationship to be a romantic. McLernon found that difficult to accept. In effect he wouldn’t take no for an answer.”

He contacted her her numerous times before it built to flashpoint on October 11 last year, when he sent her a message saying he was minded to come to England to kidnap her.

Mr Towers said he also contacted the father of her children and told him had he better get home and "watch the kids because I am coming to to take their mother away".

A disqualified driver, McLernon then set off for the Bishop Auckland area in a friend’s car.

Shaun Dryden, mitigating, said McLernon had problems with anger management and it was down to his lack of emotional maturity that he couldn’t reconcile himself to the woman not wanting to be in romantic relationship.”

He added, McLernon’s only intention was to damage the police car windscreen, so the officer could not pursue him further.

The judge said to McLernon: “You displayed considerable hostility toward the police office. The motive was, it seems, was to disable his vehicle, but this was a wild an explosive attack on a man was doing no more than enforcing law and order.

“Law abiding members of the public are entitled to be free of your bullying and the criminal violation of their rights.”

The court was told McLernon had an “unenviable record” of 23 convictions for 46 offences, including a road rage incident in which he used a pick axe handle to smash a vehicle’s windscreen.

McLernon, of Kingseat Avenue, Falkirk, pleaded guilty to affray, possession of offensive weapon, two charges of harassment and driving while disqualified. He was banned from driving for 56 months and made subject of a lifetime restraining order forbidding any contact with the woman, her children or her former partner.