Man admits role in 'noxious spray' street robbery

By Crown Court correspondent in Crime

A tourist has admitted taking part in a robbery in which a shop manager was allegedly sprayed with a noxious substance.

Rikki Ward pleaded guilty to robbing the manager of the Costcutter store in Dawlish, South Devon, of more than £5,000 in an attack on January 30 this year.

Victim Neil Warner was allegedly attacked and sprayed in the face in The Strand, Dawlish, as he walked from the shop to a bank with £5,129.90 takings. He received first aid at a nearby optician before being treated at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital.

Ward, aged 28, of Chatham Road, Sunderland, admitted robbery when he appeared at Exeter Crown Court. He continues to deny a second charge of causing grievous bodily harm with intent.

Co-defendant Paul Rowntree, aged 36, originally from Sunderland but who was staying at Exeter Road, Dawlish, at the time, denies both charges.

A third man, Ross Morton, is due to appear before Exeter Magistrates next week accused of assisting an offence by driving the two men from Dawlish to Torbay.

Judge Geoffrey Mercer, QC, adjourned Ward and Rowntree’s cases for a provisional trial date of July 31 and remanded them both in custody.

He gave further directions about the exchange of prosecution and defence papers, including telephone and forensic evidence.

Mr Martin Salloway, for Ward, said the issue in the assault case will be whether he intended to cause serious injury and if he knew what sort of substance was sprayed.

Miss Mary McCarthy, prosecuting, said the addition of the third defendant to the indictment may lead to a delay of the trial from July until October.