A SEASONED thug who threatened to cave a mum’s head in with an axe in front of her 12-year-old daughter has been branded a “coward” and jailed for 14 years.

“Despicable” Luke Donoghue mistakenly believed Ann-Marie Quilty was growing cannabis at her Bacup home, Preston Crown Court heard.

But Miss Quilty only took the drug to relieve chronic pain she endured as a result of cervical cancer complications, the court was told.

Donoghue burst into her home, at night, with an accomplice, demanding “where’s the weed, where’s the money”, before picking up an axe.

The ordeal followed a string of offences which saw him terrorise Bacup - one of his assault victims ended up with a victim suffering a broken leg and he also smashed a glass into the face of a man outside a chip shop.

Jailing him, Judge Philip Parry QC said: “You are a bully and a coward who has selected, over many years, victims who are considerably weaker than yourself.”

Donoghue, 26, formerly of Pickup Street, Bacup, was also deemed to be a dangerous offender and must serve a three-year extended licence.

His partner-in-crime, former soldier Daniel Roberts, 32, of Staveley Close, Bacup, was jailed for eight years and one month after he admitted robbery.

Passing sentence on him, Judge Parry added: “You are not inherently a bad man but you did a very bad thing.”

Craig McGregor, prosecuting, said Donoghue and Roberts burst into Miss Quilty's home, around 8pm. Donoghue told her he had smelled a "grow" and demanded to know where the cannabis was.

Roberts went upstairs and brought down her 12-year-old daughter Chantaya from her bedroom, he added. In front of the youngster, Donoghue told the mother he was going to "stick this axe into your head" if she did not reveal where the drugs and money were.

The court heard Roberts turned over sofas and ransacked cupboards while Donoghue hit the mother in face if she even looked at him.

Donoghue made Miss Quilty pull down her trousers to see if there was cannabis hidden in her waistband. He snatched some of her jewellery before fleeing.

Miss Quilty told police later: "What they did to a woman and her child was unforgettable and unforgivable."