A KNIFE wielding thug who burgled a Leigh primary school and terrified women motorists, has been jailed for two years and four months.

During a day of crimes on February 16, Gareth Wilson, who was high on drink and drugs, went on a rampage in the town, stealing handbags from women in their cars, committing burglary and assaulting and hurling abuse at police.

At Bolton Crown Court Wilson, aged 34, of Bag Lane, Atherton, pleaded guilty to thefts, assault, possessing knives, assaulting as police officer, burglary and racially aggravated public disorder.

The court heard how Wilson was in Leigh when he opened the door of a car waiting at traffic lights and grabbed a woman’s handbag. The victim gave chase but the thief got away.

“She was left feeling shocked, violated and shaken,” commented Judge Tom Gilbart.

Thirty minutes later another woman was driving along Kirkall Lane when Wilson opened her car door and tried to grab her bag, which the woman attempted to cling on to.

“She saw that you were holding a knife and, quite understandably, she was terrified,” Judge Gilbart told Wilson, adding that the woman had been badly affected by the crime, has changed her car and drives with the doors locked as a result.

The crime was spotted by an off-duty police officer in his car. Wilson, brandishing the knife towards him, shouted: “You’re a f***ing police officer are you?”

“I decided to drive away as I feared for my personal safety due to this male’s actions,” said the officer in a statement.

When his colleagues arrived at the scene Wilson also brandished his knife at them before running away.

Wilson then headed for Leigh Primary School at 5pm where he was found by staff with a bottle and a table knife on him.

Wilson claimed to be homeless and said he had the knife on him to open a can of beans but when staff tried to get him to leave he became aggressive and alleged he was there to make a food donation.

“I could take you lot. If I wanted to hurt you I would have already f**ing done it,” he told them.

After Wilson was persuaded to leave it was discovered that he had forced open a hatch in the reception office and stolen cash and a bottle of wine.

“Whatever issues you have suffered in your personal life, it shows an arrogance and a selfishness to break into a school and then, when confronted by the poor staff having to deal with you, make comments about how you could have hurt or got them,” Judge Gilbart told Wilson.

At 5.30am the next morning Wilson was spotted pulling off a metal grill from a window at Daisy Hill railway station and entering the building carrying a large pole.

When police arrived and arrested him he struggled and threatened them.

The burglar told them he was going to “rob your houses” and, to one officer, that he would rape his sister.

“These are utterly shameful things to say,” said Judge Gilbart.

Wilson went further and repeatedly hurled racist abuse at one policeman.

“It is pathetic that in a modern, multicultural society, there are still people who abuse others because of their skin colour. Those comments, I’m afraid Mr Wilson, reveal your own ignorance and prejudice,” added the judge.

The court heard that Wilson has 28 previous convictions for offences including burglary, violence and robbery, suffers from mental health problems and, while in prison awaiting sentence, was unable to attend his mother’s funeral.