A man whose home was surrounded by armed police after he threatened to shoot dead his wife and himself has avoided jail.
Henry Harrison, 57, was this week given a 14-week sentence, suspended for two years.
Magistrates at Bedlington heard financial pressures had put a strain on the marriage after he lost his job two years ago.
Harrison, of St Paul’s Garth, Alnwick, pleaded guilty to beating his wife Anne at their home in Percy Road, Shilbottle, on May 19 and June 16. They had been together 37 years, but she now has a non-molestation order from a judge to keep her husband away.
Magistrates have imposed a restraining order too, banning him from approaching or trying to contact her.
His solicitor John Williams said: “Two outbursts of temper have brought to an end a very long and happy marriage.”
The court heard Harrison had delivered a volley of several punches to his wife’s head, dragged her upstairs by the hair and threatened her with a knife.
Sarah O’Neil, prosecuting, said that on June 16 the couple had argued about his lack of a job as she drove him home from the John Bull pub in Alnwick.
After he told her “you are going to get it”, she fled to a relative’s house and did not return until 7pm. He took the car keys and said he couldn’t go on living.
“He picked up an axe and said he was going to finish this now,” Ms O’Neil said. “He broke down in tears and said, ‘I’ll finish it now for both of us. I’ll get the gun out and it will be easier because it will not hurt so much’.”
Harrison was the legal holder of two guns, which were both locked in a cabinet when police arrived. There was ammunition in a plastic bag in a bedroom. Mrs Harrison feared what would happen next.
Mr Williams said this was a man of previous good character, but when he had been thrown out of work, things had gone downhill rapidly and he discovered a £15,000 household debt.
“He accepts that what he did was wrong. His biggest regret is because these two incidents in effect brought to an end a 37-year marriage and it really is the saddest circumstances. His wife should never have had to suffer in the way that she did.”
Because of the court case he no longer had access to a gun.
Mr Williams said the couple’s family were in court on Monday. “They are not happy about what happened to their mother and hope that at some time in the future they can put this behind them.”
Harrison was given two years’ probation with attendance at a domestic violence programme and ordered to pay £200 compensation to Mrs Harrison and £40 costs.