CAFE customers feared for their safety when an axe was flourished during a heated confrontation between two young men, a court heard.

Sam Henderson, who carried the 18in tool “for protection”, was today (Friday October 21) given an eight-month custodial sentence, after admitting possessing an offensive weapon in public, with intent to cause a fear of violence.

Durham Crown Court heard that the manager of Citrone’s, in Chester-le-Street, became aware of an increasingly noisy dispute between two customers, in mid-afternoon on August 23.

One of those involved picked up a glass jar from a counter and threw it towards 20-year-old Henderson, who was sitting with his pregnant girlfriend.

Adrian Strong, prosecuting, said it struck the left elbow of Henderson, who responded by producing the axe from his trousers.

He held it above his head, as if about to thrust it towards the other man, threatening to, “chop him up”, said Mr Strong.

As the other man threatened to throw another glass jar, the cafe manager tried to intervene, to no avail, and so turned his attentions to assisting the fearful customers, ushering them away.

Mr Strong said there were about a dozen other people in the cafe, aged three to 30, and two tearful staff members, who helped the youngest customers out of the rear of the premises.

Both men eventually left, one making off in a vehicle, but Henderson, who was recognised, was arrested later.

He told police he threw the axe down a drain near the town’s railway station, but despite checking five drains in the vicinity, it has not been recovered.

Mr Strong quoted from the manager’s impact statement, in which he described it as the most frightening incident he has witnessed in 33 years running the premises.

The cafe was closed for several hours after the incident causing a loss of takings.

Claire Anderson, for Henderson, said he wanted to apologise to the staff and customers for the fear he caused them.

She said Henderson, of The Brooms, in Ouston, near Chester-le-Street, who had taken valium that day, is now, “extremely remorseful”, aware of the potential consequences of his actions.

Imposing the eight month sentence in a young offenders’ institution, Judge Christopher Prince also made Henderson subject of a restraining order forbidding him from trying to contact the cafe owner, or from visiting the premises.