Shop manager robbed of £5,000 takings thought he had gone ‘totally blind’ in street attack

The Costcutter shop in Queen Street, Dawlish, Devon. Copyright Google Maps.
The Costcutter shop in Queen Street, Dawlish, Devon. Copyright Google Maps.

A shop manager has told of his terror at being blinded by ammonia by alleged robbers who snatched his takings as he took them to a Post Office.

Neil Warner was left screaming in pain in the centre of Dawlish, Devon, after being sprayed in the face with the ammonia by robber Rikky Ward, a court heard.

He dropped the £5,000 takings which he was taking from the Costcutter store, which were snatched by the two robbers, who fled on foot up a side road.

Passers-by took him into an optician’s shop where staff tried to clean the ammonia from his eyes.

Ward has admitted spraying the ammonia but a second man, Paul Rowntree, denies being the other robber during a trial at Exeter Crown Court.

The prosecution say the two men, who are both from Sunderland, lay in wait on the Strand in Dawlish on the afternoon of January 30 this year and ambushed Mr Warner as he took the £5,129.90 takings to the nearby Post Office.

They were caught on CCTV watching the shop and the route to the Post Office before Ward came out of a side street and Rowntree ran across the road to join him.

Clothes which were shown on the CCTV were found in hedges on country lanes near Dawlish, where they had been thrown from a car window.

They contained Ward and Rowntree’s DNA.

Ward, 28, of Chatham Road, Sunderland, has admitted robbery and causing grievous bodily harm with intent.

Rowntree, 37, of Oswald Street, Sunderland, but who was staying at Exeter Road, Dawlish, denies both charges.

Ross Morton, 29, of Gatehouse Close, Dawlish, denies assisting an offender by driving the two men to Torquay after the raid.

Describing what happened in a police interview, Mr Warner said: “I saw he was wearing a black balaclava with eye holes in it.

“I thought he was going to run into me. Then I noticed he had a bottle.

“It was a white bottle which he squirted straight into my face.

“Everything went black and there was an awful pain in my eyes and mouth.

“I was stood there screaming.

“I was totally blind and the pain was just unbearable.

“Someone said to get me to the opticians.

“I have a heart condition and thought I was going to have a heart attack.

“I thought I would never see my wife and boy again.”

The trial continues.