An attacker who slashed his former friend with a Stanley knife in a Stevenage street, causing him horrific facial injuries, was cleared of his attempted murder today at St Albans Crown Court.

Alan Copestake, 36, of Ickleford Road, Hitchin, was found guilty of an alternative charge of causing grievous bodily harm with intent to his victim, Gavin Clarke – and told he faces a “significant” prison sentence.

Mr Clarke, 40, had told a jury during the trial that he thought his face was falling off as he was taken to Stevenage’s Lister Hospital in a friend’s car.

Mr Clarke said as he held his face, he could feel the blood seeping through his fingers.

Copestake, a father-of-two, wept in the dock as the jury brought in its verdicts.

He was also convicted of having an article with a blade or point.

Remanding him in custody to await sentence, Judge Stephen Warner ordered a pre-sentence report which will address the question of danger and the risk Copestake poses.

The judge told him: ”You have been convicted of a very serious offence and a very significant custodial sentence is inevitable in this case.”

Copestake and the victim had known each other for much of their lives, said prosecutor Ann Evans.

“Gavin Clarke said this defendant was someone he thought of as a friend. Someone who he never thought would carve him with a knife,” she said.

During the trial the jury was told how, in September of last year, Copestake was living at his mother’s home in Stevenage.

The jury heard there had been a flurry of calls and texts sent by Mr Clarke to Copestake before the attack.

Copestake told the court Mr Clarke had asked him if he could get hold of any cocaine for him – and when he had said he couldn’t help, Mr Clarke had become “quite confrontational”.

After sending the messages, Mr Clarke called another friend called Mickey and arranged for him to take him in his car to Copestake’s address, where he intended to meet him.

Mr Copestake told police that when he got out of his car he was approached by Mr Clarke, who lunged at him and punched him.

He said any injuries Mr Clarke had received were because of his “own actions”, and said he had put his hands up to defend himself.

Mr Clarke told police it was Mr Copestake who had attacked him.

Back in his vehicle after the scuffle, Mr Clarke told his friend to take him to Lister Hospital. On arrival in the hospital’s A&E car park, he got out of the car and collapsed on the ground.

He had suffered a deep cut to the right side of his face, as well as cuts near a vein in his neck.

He had to undergo surgery, and was put into an induced coma for two days as part of his treatment.

Mrs Evans said when police arrived at Copestake’s address, they found the defendant sitting on the ground between two cars.

After the verdicts were announced, the jury was told that Copestake had been convicted of previous offences – including rape back in 2001, for which he received a three-year jail sentence at Luton Crown Court.

Copestake was told he will be back in court on March 28 to be sentenced.

He denied he had taken a Stanley knife with him to Cromdale Walk that night, or that it had been his intention to kill Mr Clarke.