A farmer who convinced his girlfriend he worked for the secret service while living a "James Bond-style fantasy" is behind bars after police found a gun hidden in his chicken coop.
John Hare, who had a wife and family, told his girlfriend he had killed people in the past and had agents watching him so always had to have a handgun close by.
The 53-year-old Walter Mitty character was even armed during a dinner outing to a Toby Carvery and would carry the .22 pistol on nights out with the woman.
A judge said Hare, whose marriage broke down, was living a "James Bond-type fantasy" to impress his girlfriend, who he was seeing for five years before he attacked her during a confrontation at his home in May 2020.
Newcastle Crown Court heard Hare had punched his girlfriend three times and sent her to the floor. He then put his palm to her face and caused her nose to bleed before damaging her car.
Hare denied assault and criminal damage but was convicted after a trial.
Prosecutor Kelly Sherif told the court it was during an investigation into Hare that detectives received information about him having a firearm and he confessed when confronted.
When officers arrived at the farm to seize the firearm they were directed to the coop, containing around 30 chickens.
Miss Sherif said: "At this point, the defendant's wife entered the chicken coop, went behind units, dug the ground with her bare hands, pulled out a brick, then dug further.
"She pulled out a bread bag which contained the weapon and she threw this to the officers' feet."
The court heard the weapon was a .22 air pistol which was capable of firing.
Hare, of Carr House Farm, Murton, Seaham, admitted possession of a prohibited firearm, which he said he had bought over the internet in 2005 or 2006, to be used to shoot rats.
Judge Edward Bindloss sentenced him to five-and-a-half years behind bars with an order to pay £100 compensation for the damage.
Judge Bindloss said Hare's girlfriend had told police in a statement she had seen the handgun "lots of times" during their relationship.
She also said in her statement: "He even had it with him when he went to the Toby Carvery at Washington and also had it on him on nights out, not all the time but quite frequently."
Judge Bindloss added: "She goes on to say you had made her believe that you had some kind of connection to the secret service and agents and had killed people due to your work and, because of threats made against you, you carried a weapon and agents were watching you.
"That was all complete fantasy. She says she believed you worked for the Secret Service and that was why you kept the weapon close by."
The court heard Hare's farm has a number or properties, including a bungalow he lived in and a house where his wife lived.
Judge Bindloss said he accepted Hare was not a danger to the public but said he was a "fantasist" and what he told his girlfriend was "froth and nonsense".
Thomas Welshman, defending, said Hare never threatened anyone with the gun and the deterioration of his marriage had led to a "build up of pressure".
Mr Welshman said Hare was well respected in the community and had 12 employees, adding: "He is a flawed man, a troubled man but not a dangerous man."
Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To know...