IT started with a desperate need for a $4 can of tuna and ended in Grafton Local Court with a nine-month suspended jail sentence and $300 in fines.
Michael Hoover, 20, of Bowraville, last week pleaded guilty to a charge of intimidating a Coles checkout woman with a knife.
Police facts tendered to the court said Hoover, who was living in his car at the time of the offence, went to the Coles in Grafton Mall with another man about 8am on Tuesday, March 20.
Hoover put a $4 can of John West tuna in his jumper sleeve, where he was also concealing a fishing knife, police said.
"As the accused went to the register he raised his arm, he showed the victim the knife and said: 'I've got nothing else up my sleeve except this'," police said.
Hoover left the mall and was followed by a security guard to a grey Ford Falcon in King St, where police caught up with him.
Police found four knives in the boot of the car and, under questioning, Hoover admitted asking a member of the public for cigarettes after showing them a knife.
"Do you want to go to jail?" asked Magistrate David Heilpern in court on Monday.
"No," replied Hoover.
"Well, the way you are going, that is where you are headed. And let me say, the good folk of Grafton don't like it when somebody sneaks a can of tuna from a shop and then threatens somebody with a knife," came the stern warning.
"I went like this," Hoover replied, holding up his arm. "I didn't say anything to her."
Mr Heilpern reminded Hoover of the implied threat of showing someone a weapon, a threat he had pleaded guilty to.
"I am giving you a nine-month jail term but I am suspending the sentence," the magistrate said.
He said Hoover would end up behind bars for any kind of offence within the next nine months.
Defence solicitor Joe Fahey said Hoover was now in a better place mentally than he was at the time of the offence.
Hoover was fined $200 for possession of a knife in a public place and $100 for shoplifting.