Am­mo­nia at­tack: man found guilty

Sunderland Echo - - Front Page - By Ted Daven­port copy­desk.north­east@jpress.co.uk Twit­ter: @Sun­der­lan­dE­cho

A masked rob­ber from Sun­der­land has been found guilty of tak­ing part in an am­mo­nia at­tack on a shop­keeper who was al­most blinded as his tak­ings were snatched.

Neil Warner feared he was go­ing to die or lose his sight when he was am­bushed by rob­bers Rikki Ward and Paul Rown­tree.

A masked rob­ber from Sun­der­land has been found guilty of tak­ing part in an am­mo­nia at­tack on a shop­keeper who was al­most blinded as his tak­ings were snatched.

Neil Warner feared he was go­ing to die or lose his sight when he was am­bushed by rob­bers Rikki Ward and Paul Rown­tree, as he walked from a shop in Dawlish to a nearby post of­fice with £5,129 in cash.

Ward sprayed undi­luted am­mo­nia into his face while Rown­tree grabbed a bag which con­tained the tak­ings from the Cost­cut­ter shop dur­ing the at­tack on Jan­uary 20 this year.

Mr Warner suf­fered par­tial blind­ness in one eye, but would prob­a­bly have lost his sight but for passers-by, who took him into an op­ti­cian’s shop.

They both fled up a side al­ley and through gar­dens be­fore be­ing picked up and driven to a coun­try lane at nearby Ash­combe where they threw their jack­ets, masks and gloves out of the win­dow.

Ward’s DNA was found on the dis­carded am­mo­nia bot­tle and he ad­mit­ted his part in the raid, but Rown­tree de­nied be­ing in­volved.

He was found guilty af­ter a jury at Ex­eter Crown Court was shown CCTV of him lay­ing in wait be­fore the at­tack.

Get­away driver Ross Mor­ton claimed he had no idea his two pas­sen­gers had just car­ried out a rob­bery, but was found guilty af­ter phone ev­i­dence showed he had gone through Ash­combe and CCTV showed him go­ing on a £300 shop­ping spree with the rob­bers af­ter driv­ing them to Torquay.

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

Rown­tree, 37, of Oswald Street, Sun­der­land, but who was stay­ing at Ex­eter Road, Dawlish, had de­nied, but was con­victed of rob­bery and griev­ous bod­ily harm with in­tent. Mor­ton, 29, of Gate­house Close, Dawlish, de­nied, but was found guilty of as­sist­ing an of­fender.

They will all be sen­tenced to­day by Judge Ge­of­frey Mercer, QC, who re­manded them in cus­tody.

Dur­ing a nine-day trial Mr Warner told of his ter­ror in a video recorded po­lice in­ter­view.

He was just yards from the post of­fice when he was at­tacked.

The 58-year-old said: “I was to­tally blind and the pain was just un­bear­able.

“I re­mem­ber be­ing led in to the op­ti­cian and ask­ing if I still had a face left.

“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.”

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

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

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