A ROYAL Air Force veteran who was unhappy with the service he got from a Carlisle car wash firm attacked the owner with a knuckle-duster.

Peter Gray, 45, whose military service included a stint in Afghanistan, was caught after a CCTV camera showed him carrying out the vicious assault on Martyn Reading at his Water Street business.

He admitted unlawful wounding and having an offensive weapon without lawful authority.

But after hearing about his “exemplary” eight years military service, and how he had been left depressed by the death of his father, Judge Peter Davies suspended the two-year prison sentence he imposed.

Louise McCloskey, prosecuting at the city’s crown court, said Gray arrived at the Water Street car wash on July 26 and immediately attacked Mr Reading, delivering three punches to his head and face and kicking his chest.

CCTV images showed how the violence lasted only seconds.

“The [victim] went to hospital and had a CT scan, which showed he had a displaced fracture to his nose,” said the barrister.

Mr Reading also suffered a chipped tooth, a burst lip, and bruising.

Miss McCloskey continued: “As a result, the police circulated [CCTV] stills, and organised an press appeal. An anonymous member of the public named this defendant.”

Initially, he could not be spoken to because he was having a long holiday in the USA but he contacted the police himself when he arrived home.

Gray, of Woodside North, Upperby, said he was motivated by a dispute over his car allegedly being left with a cracked windscreen after using the car wash. The victim said he was left paranoid and fearful that Gray would return.

He was left out of pocket as he had to pay for somebody to managed the business while he was being treated medically and recovering.

The court heard that Gray had previous convictions for battery, dishonesty, and a drugs offence in 1993.

David Wales, for Gray, said: “He had a moment of madness, and lost control of his temper... In the 18 months leading up to this he had suffered a series of bereavements, the first of which was his father.”

Unaware how badly he was affected by the grief, Gray was now being treated for depression. It was the death of his father which was the catalyst for his low mood.

Mr Wales confirmed that Gray, a self-employed lorry driver, who at one time was stationed in the Afghan capital Kabul, had thrown away the knuckle-duster, which broke during the attack.

Judge Peter Davies told the defendant: “Despite the targeted nature of this offence, [the wounding] two matters in particular have saved you from an immediate custodial sentence.

“One is your exemplary discharge from the RAF, having serving faithfully for eight years, partly in Afghanistan. I will not ignore people who give that selfless service to their country

“The second matter is your timely guilty pleas.”

The judge noted that plenty of people cope with bereavements without arming themselves with knuckle-dusters.

He suspended the jail term for two years, ordered Gray to do 200 hours of unpaid work, and told him to pay his victim £2,000 in compensation. He must also pay a £140 victim surcharge.