A MARKET trader has avoided jail for a late-night stabbing.

David Beard, 53, armed himself with a kitchen knife after trouble flared in Butt Road, Colchester, last September.

Beard, of Alexandra Road, Colchester, had been pestered by what was described in a court as street people.

He went home, got the kitchen knife and returned to the scene, where he stabbed Robert Yexley in the stomach.

Beard was jailed for nine months, suspended for two years, after he admitted wounding and possessing an offensive weapon.

Recorder Patricia Lynch QC told him only the particular circumstances of the case had saved him from an immediate prison sentence.

Nicola May, prosecuting, said Mr Yexley, his girlfriend and others had been sitting on the kerb smoking near the Fat Cat pub, in Butt Road, at about 11.15pm on Sunday, September 11, last year.

Father-of-three Beard walked past on his way home and there was an exchange of words before Beard carried on.

A short while later he returned to the scene and ended up stabbing Mr Yexley when there was another confrontation between them.

Chelmsford Crown Court heard yesterday Mr Yexley collapsed after he saw blood coming from a hole in his stomach.

Beard ran off, but he was chased by Mr Yexley’s girlfriend, who put her arm around Beard’s neck.

Others at the scene, including three students, got involved and Beard dropped the knife. He was arrested later.

Beard told police the stabbing had been an accident.

He had produced the knife to frighten off Mr Yexley and others in the group.

Barry Gilbert, mitigating, said it had been a reckless act.

He described the group as street people, drinking and hanging around in the road.

Mr Gilbert said: “They were shouting abuse at Mr Beard, giving him a bad time and asking him if he wanted to buy a laptop.

“Had this matter gone to trial, there is evidence from a witness who experienced the same thing earlier that evening.”

Beard returned home and decided to go out again for a takeaway and put the knife in his pocket.

Mr Gilbert said: “The victim was a big man and when Beard went down the street, the same thing happened and he was frightened.

“He took out the knife and was waving it around. He had no intention of stabbing anyone.

“He was as shocked as anybody when he found out Mr Yexley had been stabbed.

“He admitted he was wrong and said he had been stupid. He accepts taking the knife was a huge mistake.”

Beard has run a market stall, called Culture Stir, in Trinity Square, Colchester, since the late Eighties.

He had been due to face trial on a charge of wounding with intent last month, but admitted the lesser charge of wounding.

Apart from the suspended sentence, Beard was also given a 12-month supervision order and a six-month curfew between 7pm and 7am.

Recorder Lynch also told Beard to take part in the alcohol treatment programme for 12 months.

She said: “I expect the six pints of cider you drank earlier affected your judgment.”