A WHITEHAVEN man reacted furiously after he was accused of spiking a woman’s drink during a night out, threatening to “chop up” people and then arming himself with a fearsome looking machete.

The man directly threatened by 27-year-old Connor Devlin on the evening of February 19 later told police he feared he would be stabbed. But the terrifying confrontation eventually “fizzled out,” Carlisle Crown Court heard.

Devlin, of Esk Avenue, Whitehaven, admitted affray and possessing a bladed article in a public place without good reason.

Gerard Rogerson, prosecuting, said Devlin’s anger was triggered by a Facebook post in which somebody suggested he had spiked the drink of a woman who was seen vomiting outside town centre pub.

“Essentially, a comment was placed on the Facebook system calling him a ratbag, and accusing him of spiking the young girl’s drink,” said Mr Rogerson.  “This clearly didn’t go down well with Mr Devlin.”

After seeing the post, the defendant sent threatening text messages to various people who were out drinking in Whitehaven town centre that evening. He threatened to meet them and fight them.

“He threatened to slice them up,” said Mr Rogerson.

The messages included: “Let’s have it now – me and you, man to man. I’ll chop them all up. Bring your army. We have a van here for your body. Bring everyone. Just wait and see: they’re all getting sliced.”

Devlin even named the place for the fight and said he would set off in 15 minutes. Mr Rogerson continued: “He duly set off for Whitehaven town centre and met a group of people who had been drinking.”

Witnesses who had earlier seen a woman vomiting outside the Wellington pub said there had been an argument in the pub as Devlin was accused of being involved in what happened to the woman.

He had left but later returned, going into the street outside the Whittington Cat pub, armed with a machete – though some people suggested he had two weapons.

Devlin was see waving the machete around, but a woman who saw this said she got the impression he would not have used it unless he attacked himself.

Angry rather than scared, she had approached him and remonstrated with him, said Mr Rogerson. It was during a “heated conversation” on the street with one of the men in the Facebook conversation that Devlin produced the machete.

Fearing he would be stabbed, the man later told police he was in shock when the defendant produced the weapon from under his clothing. When police caught up with Devlin, he was slurring his speech and “wound himself up”.

On the floor beside his settee, the officers found two machetes, one bearing the word “Rambo” on its handle.

Anthony Parkinson, defending, said there was no evidence that Devlin spiked anybody’s drink that night and when the pub’s bartender refused to ask his accusers to leave the pub he left, extremely upset and “in drink.”

While remanded in custody, however, Devlin benefitted: firstly, be having time to reflect on his life; and secondly by being given appropriate medication for his mental health issues, which included depression.

“He says that’s settled him down and he’s much more balanced than he was,” said the barrister. “The lack of drink and drugs has also assisted him.”

Recorder David Temkin QC said the defendant’s text messages showed that he was ready for violence involiving a blade of some kind.

Describing the confrontation, Recorder Tempkin told Devlin: “You were angry and you looked angry; you held the machete at head height for about five minutes, such that the witness thought you were going to stab him.”

The judge noted the defendant’s explanation, that he “snapped” because he had been accused of spiking a drink. Recorder Temkin said he accepted the defendant’s denial of that act.

However, the blade offence happened in a busy public place and Devlin gave the impression he would act on his threats. Recorder Temkin noted also that the defendant had in the past shown an unwillingness to cooperate with the Probation Service help he was offered.

“You don’t appear willing to engage so there is not a sufficient prospect of rehabilitation,” remarked the judge. Imposing a one year jail term, the judge added that it was not appropriate to suspend that sentence.