A labourer violently attacked and threatened to kill an autistic bus passenger – simply for looking at him.
Mark Harding, 31, subjected the passenger to a barrage of foul-mouthed abuse and threatening a dozen times to kill him in the incident
The attack left the innocent bus passenger screaming in terror, a court heard.
Harding was jailed six months over the incident on a bus in Billingham.
The victim was on the phone to his aunt when Harding began his tirade about 10.30pm on April 21, Teesside Live reports.
He began ranting at his fellow bus passenger after he looked at Harding, Teesside Crown Court heard.
"Who the f*** are you looking at?" he blurted. "Don't look at me like that again.
"Look at me like that again and I'll drag you off this bus, you f***ing little idiot," he ranted.
The bus driver told him to get off, but he refused and carried on berating the other passenger for no reason.
Then Harding walked to him, swung a punch, grabbed him around the neck and pushed him out of his seat.
Prosecutor Rachel Masters said Harding repeatedly got up and punched the victim before other people pulled him away.
She said the bloody-nosed passenger was "extremely distressed, at one point screaming in terror".
Harding threatened him: "I'll f***ing kill you. You're messing with the wrong guy. I'll knock you into next week. I'll kill this ****."
Ms Masters said: "He threatened 12 times that he would kill him."
The victim had to be protected by other passengers who intervened, bringing the victim's eight-minute ordeal to an end.
He was left shaken, upset and bleeding after Harding finally left the bus, the assault captured on CCTV.
He later said in a statement the encounter affected his mental health and made him upset, depressed and anxious about travelling by himself.
After arrest, Harding said he could not remember anything of the incident and lost his temper under the influence of alcohol.
He said he would not have acted on his threats.
Harding, of Billingham, admitted assault by beating and making threats to kill – his first conviction.
He came to court with references from his mother, former partner and friends speaking highly of him.
Damian Sabino, defending, said the dad-of-three did not appreciate the other passenger's vulnerabilities at the time.
When told about them by police, "his face dropped, he felt great shame, he was sick to the stomach", and made a frank confession.
Mr Sabino said Harding drank more than usual at a friend's birthday celebration and became paranoid that night.
He added: "There's been a backlash. He's received online threats, abuse in the locale where he lives.
"The impact is that in fact he doesn't go out and he's become abstinent from alcohol. There's been an impact on his family."
Harding had a relative with autistic traits and this was a "constant reminder of what happened".
He wrote a "quite moving" letter to the victim, said Mr Sabino: "He extends through me his genuine remorse and deep shame."
Judge Peter Armstrong told Harding: "If this had been a single punch, a single threat, it might have been possible to avoid an immediate custodial sentence.
"But this was a persistent and sustained incident where you punched him more than once and threatened to kill him on numerous occasions.
"Obviously you did not intend to kill him but the intent was to cause him to believe that. He was understandably extremely upset.
"It was in public on the bus when someone was just going about their lawful business going home.
"They are entitled to the protection of the courts from people who behave in this appalling way.
"This was a drunken ranting episode.
"Your remorse is genuine. I've read the letter which you've written to the victim. It'll be a matter for him whether he reads it or not.
"It has to be immediate custody. The nature of this attack on a vulnerable person I'm afraid means that only immediate custody can be justified for the offences, but I keep the sentence as low as I can."
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