Terrified customers fled as a knife-wielding man threw bottles of wine at staff in a packed supermarket – just a day after he was refused immediate help for a mental health condition.
Hundreds of people were forced to abandon their shopping and evacuate Asda in Ellesmere Port as the man hurled dozens of bottles, sending glass and red wine flying across the aisle.
Former soldier Michael Luscombe, of Cannon Street, Ellesmere Port, wounded a member of staff and left a police officer needing multiple stitches during the dramatic incident, which happened at noon on Friday, March 7.
The 60-year-old – who suffers from bipolar disorder – was jailed on Monday for two-and-a-half years for the incident, which ended when police used batons and pepper spray as they wrestled him to the ground.
But the court heard how just a day before the offence, Luscombe – a former inpatient in the mental health unit at Bowmere Hospital in Chester – asked for help managing his condition but was told he would have to wait seven months.
Chester Crown Court was shown CCTV footage of the moment Luscombe calmly unwrapped a knife before throwing wine bottles as two female shoppers abandoned their trollies and headed for safety.
Brave staff member John Stokes needed treatment for an injury to his eye after attempting to stop Luscombe and being showered with glass and wine.
Staff set off the fire alarm, evacuating hundreds of customers to the car park, before surrounding the aisle as Luscombe continued to throw bottles at them.
Footage showed Luscombe creating a make-shift barricade out of crates and containers as three police officers arrived – who then hit him with batons while he brandished a knife.
Prosecutor Oliver King said: “They sprayed him with [incapacitant spray], it is at that point he moves his arm and out and strikes one of the officers in the left index finger.”
PC Lavender needed multiple stitches to his finger, which was ‘deeply lacerated’ in the struggle which saw Luscombe wrestled to the ground.
Luscombe, who has one previous conviction for ABH dating back to 1983, pleaded guilty to common assault, criminal damage, affray, possession of a bladed article and unlawful wounding, at an earlier hearing.
John Wyn Williams, defending, said the episode could have been ‘triggered’ after Luscombe was informed he would have to wait seven months for help managing his mental health condition.
“He is a man, on the face of it, who had been living a law-abiding life, he has obviously suffered some kind of mental health episode.
“When he was shown the CCTV in prison he held his head in his hands and said ‘this is horrific’.
“He wants me to publicly apologise to the officers, staff and customers in Asda who must have found this situation very frightening.”
The Recorder of Chester, Judge Elgan Edwards, praised the bravery of police and staff, saying: “Anyone who saw this CCTV could only be impressed by the dedication to their duty of the Asda staff, who did everything they could to control defendant.”