ARMED police swooped on a Hampshire hospital after terrified staff were confronted by a man armed with an axe, a court heard.

Having already used to the weapon to damage a police station, William Mann confronted two porters at Lymington New Forest Hospital and asked them: “Do you know anyone who wants to die?”

An armed response unit was called to the hospital and persuaded Mann to drop the weapon, Southampton Crown Court was told.

James Kellam, prosecuting, said the 36-year-old had earlier made an agitated phone call to police from his home in Brookland Close, Pennington.

He added: “The police paid him a visit but he insisted he was not in a suicidal frame of mind. An hour later his condition had deteriorated and his mother called an ambulance.

“When it arrived it he was no longer at the family home. He’d left the property and acquired a substantial axe with a red handle.

“He took it to Lymington police station and smashed up the front door, making it quite clear that he wanted to be sectioned. From there he went to the hospital, still carrying the axe, and confronted two of the night porters.

“The defendant asked them ‘Do you know anyone who wants to die?’ He was clearly agitated – it was a very scary incident.”

Mr Kellam said police officers were called to the hospital but were advised not to approach Mann as an armed response unit was available.

“When the armed officers arrived they told him to put the axe down and he did so immediately.”

Keely Harvey, in mitigation, described the defendant’s actions on May 9 this year as a “desperate cry for help”.

She told the court: “He needed a complete and utter break from the way his life was spiralling out of control. He had split from his long-term partner and couldn’t cope with it.

“His mother was trying to get him the help he needed.

“But when she went outside to look for the ambulance he felt she had deserted him. He nipped next door to his aunt’s house and took the axe from her shed.”

Ms Harvey said Mann had since sought help for his problems and added: “He is a man who is determined to put things right.”

Referring to the incident at the hospital she said: “This was done when he had reached the absolute bottom. He could not go any deeper, but he is now on the way up.”

Recorder Jane Rowley told him: “It must have been a very frightening incident.

“You went to the local hospital and were seen walking around. You accept you weren’t going to use the axe to harm anyone but this must have been frightening and intimidating for people you came upon.”

Mann, who was under the influence of alcohol and cannabis at the time, admitted criminal damage and being in possession with a bladed article.

He was handed a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months. He was also told to undergo treatment for his alcohol problem and observe a 7pm-7am curfew for six months.

Recorder Rowley ordered the forfeiture of the axe.