A car thief who stabbed an off-duty police officer with an eight-inch blade was jailed for ten years today.

PC David Myers, 31, was stabbed three times when he tackled four youths tampering with a car near his mother's terraced house in Hartlepool.

The weapon, a chef's knife with an eight-inch blade, severed an artery in his shoulder, filling one of his lungs with blood, and only a skilled operation at the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough saved his life.

The brave PC, who serves in London's Metropolitan Police, told the youths that he was a police officer.

But knifeman Graham Hull chillingly told him he was going to stab him anyway and that he would end up in a box.

The attack was witnessed by 12-year-old girl from her bedroom. The youngster gave police a full description of how the youths surrounded PC Myers before one stabbed him another punched him to the ground and a third jumped on his back putting his arm around his neck.

The four admitted they were drunk after downing litre bottles of cider and smoking cannabis joints, said prosecutor Christine Egerton. They said that the plan was to steal a car radio cassette player from a Nissan Micra car.

PC Myers went out in his bare feet and told them to wait there while he returned to the house to pull on his trainers, Teesside Crown Court heard.

Judge Guy Whitburn QC said that the four staged a deliberate confrontation with PC Myers when he identified himself as a policeman telling them that if they touched him they would go down for seven years.

Robin Denny, defending, said that Hull expected a long prison sentence, adding: "He had an excess of drink, possibly drugs; and so did somethinq that with his background he would not have contemplated doing.

"He has a very genuine remorse as to what happened and he is extremely frightened that he has actually become involved in something so serious."

Hull of Whitfield Drive, Hartlepool, was jailed for 10 years after he pleaded guilty to wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm on July 15.

He denied attempted murder which was left on the court file.

Two youths aged 16 and 17, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, were sentenced to 18 Months detention and training after pleading guilty to violent disorder.

John Ponting, 23, of Ashgrove Avenue, Hartlepool, was given a 12 months jail sentence which was suspended for two years after he pleaded guilty to affray.

The judge told them: "All four of you were fuelled by drink.

"In the course of the confrontation PC Myers made clear to you that he was a police officer.

The wound was extremely serious, it was 10 centimetres deep and he later nearly died for loss of blood and had if not been for skilled medical attention he would have died."

PC Myers who still suffers from flashbacks, was in court but declined to comment