A TROUBLED ex-paratrooper who served in Afghanistan and Iraq has been jailed for attacking three people in an attempted robbery while high on cocaine and other drugs.

A sentencing hearing at Preston Crown Court heard how 28-year-old David Poucher entered the Shell Services Garage on Blackburn Road, Darwen and carried out a ‘frenzied’ knife attack on three people, stabbing one man in the back with a machete.

Poucher, of no fixed address, attacked a pensioner, chased the shopkeeper onto the forecourt, damaging a taxi in the process, and shortly after fleeing the scene, attempted to break into a house on Hawkshaw Avenue, before being chased to Darwen Tower by police, where he was finally arrested.

One of the victims, taxi driver Bernard Goulding, a driver for Chippy’s Taxis, suffered a deep stab wound, which required 10 stitches.

He also needed psychiatric treatment after experiencing nightmares and flashbacks, in which he ‘can still hear the banging of the knife against the window of his taxi’.

Poucher, who joined the army just months after his 16th birthday and served three months in Iraq before completing three tours of Afghanistan, had struggled to adjust to life on civvy street after being medically discharged with PTSD in 2013.

Only four members of the defendant’s squadron, whom he considered family, remained alive - five were killed in action, four took their own lives, two are serving prison sentences for armed robbery and one has recently been released from jail.

CCTV footage of the incident, which took place at around 4.30am on December 4, was played in court and showed Poucher approaching the counter of the petrol station brandishing a machete.

He brought the machete down on the back of unsuspecting Mr Goulding, who was paying for fuel.

Poucher can then be seen attacking seventy-six-year-old Michael Riley and threatening him with a different knife, before jumping over the counter and chasing shopworker Mr Patel around the shop.

Mr Patel is seen running for the door before exiting the shop, trying to keep the door closed behind him while an enraged Poucher attempts to prise the door open with his knife.

Prosecuting, Paul Brookwell said: “The police were called and chased him through Darwen before bravely rugby tackling him to the floor and restraining him. During interview, the defendant told the police that ‘given the opportunity he would do it again and was surprised he had not done it sooner’.

"He said he'd not taken his prescription medication, and had 'wanted to rob someone, blow off some steam and release some anger'.

"He also admitted he'd prepared for the robbery and just 'let himself go', striking Mr Goulding to 'show he was not mucking around'. 

The court heard Poucher told police he had a problem with cocaine and alcohol and struggled to deal with life outside the army and had consumed a full litre of brandy and four to five grams of cocaine as well as legal highs at a friend's house prior to the attack.

Mr Brookwell continued: "When he was arrested he told police he 'needed help before he really hurt someone.'"

A statement from shopworker, Mr Patel, described how he 'thought he was running for his life that night, and that thought will stay with him forever."

Jon Close, defending, said that Poucher, had no previous convictions and did not receive much help apart from medication on his discharge from the forces.

He told the court: “In 2013, his son, who was only days old, died, and he was the one to turn off the life support machine.

“Just one month after this he was deployed to Afghanistan.

“He was diagnosed with PTSD and on returning home his relationship broke down and he tried to commit suicide twice.

“He is ashamed of that person you see in the video and says, ‘it’s not him and is not what he does’.”

Judge Beverley Lunt said: “I do not underestimate the distressing effects events in your personal life have had, or what you have done while serving for this country.

“But none of these effects can reduce the terror you caused three men at a petrol station on this night.

“The first thing you did was strike Mr Goulding in the back with a machete.

“You are lucky the injury wasn’t fatal.

“This was a frenzied attack and nothing was going to stop you on your rampage.”

Poucher had pleaded guilty to charges of attempted robbery, attempted wounding, possession of a knife and a machete, criminal damage and assault at a previous hearing.

He was locked up for eight years with an additional four years to be served on extended licence.