The man, who has not been named, then ran out of the store with some shoppers giving chase. He gave himself up at a police station near by.
The attack, at a branch of the Netto superstore in Byker, appears to have been motiveless. Police said that the man, in his twenties, has not been charged with any offence yet, but was arrested and spoken to by a police doctor. He walked into the store just after 11.30am. While standing in a check-out queue, he suddenly produced the axe and struck out at random. One man received a severe blow to the forehead and staggered back with blood pouring from the wound. Three shoppers were threatened.
Two plain-clothes policemen who were passing the store when the man ran out joined in the chase. But the man ran into the nearby Clifford Street police station.
A police spokesman said: 'Once shoppers realised what was happening the man was chased from the store and he ran to the police station to give himself up. It was an entirely senseless and motiveless attack. He gave himself up rather than be torn limb from limb by the angry shoppers.'
One of the victims, Eileen Miller, 59, from Howdon, Wallsend, said: 'I was just about to take my shopping out of the trolley when I felt a blow on my left shoulder. I was leaning over at the time and the axe caught me just near my neck. I turned around and there was a bloke with the axe. He looked weird and just went wild, lashing out at everybody.' The woman was treated at the Royal Victoria Infirmary for a shoulder wound.
Catherine Fitzpatrick, 28, who comforted a pensioner who saw the attacks, said: 'The pensioner told me the man was like a maniac swinging the axe in all directions, not caring who got in the way.'
Later, John Buitekant, Netto's group trading controller, said: 'There does not seem to be any reason at all for the terrible attack.'