Three postal workers were doused with ammonia during a terrifying robbery in Accrington.
Serial criminal Daniel Burtak, 35, held up the Abbey Street branch wearing a fake beard and scarf and armed with a bottle of Fairy Liquid containing the dangerous chemical. He smashed the three employees in the face as he emptied the safe and boxes to take away £15,000 before meeting driver Colin Naylor, 51, outside a nearby pub. As he left the building, he turned to inject more ammonia into one of his helpless victims.
The pair appeared to be planning a second robbery at another post office branch in town, but their suspicious activity caught the attention of two witnesses. The couple denied any involvement in the crime but were found guilty after the trial. They returned for a sentencing hearing at Burnley Crown Court on Friday.
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Continuing, Peter Gilmour said the theft took place on May 10, 2019 and CCTV showed Naylor’s van driving through the area around 4.30am. About 50 minutes later, cameras showed Burtak arriving at the post office on a bicycle and wearing the bizarre disguise.
During the raid, three post office workers were sprayed with ammonia in the face, causing varying levels of injury. A man said he was in “agony” and still felt anxious about strangers entering the post office and a woman who had worked there for 16 years felt unable to return to her job.
Mr Gilmour said when Burtak fled the store he sprayed more ammonia on a worker ‘for free’, even though he was already incapacitated. He jumped on the bike and went to meet Naylor outside a nearby pub. Three days later, Payday appeared to target the Blackburn Road branch in the same way and caught the attention of two suspicious bystanders, which ultimately led to their arrest.
At around 11am Naylor’s lorry was again seen on CCTV driving into Accrington after leaving his home in Bolton and at a similar time Burtak was seen outside the post office. This time he decided not to go in but a Post Office worker who was in a van outside thought he looked suspicious and decided to follow him. He saw Burtak meet Naylor and get into his vehicle and an annoyed Burtak threw a bottle at his van. All of this was captured on the van’s dashcam.
A box that had been thrown away by Burtak was found on China Street and its contents included a yellow snood with DNA evidence. Police later found gloves and a wig along with further DNA evidence and the pair had also been filmed by a witness who believed they were acting strangely.
Both denied any involvement in the theft, but were eventually charged and convicted of conspiracy to commit theft. Burtak, of HMP Wymott, was also found guilty of three counts of administering a noxious substance.
Mr Gilmour said the pair had extensive criminal records with Burtak, including several robberies in 2019. Defending Burtak, Michael Scholes said he now accepts responsibility for what he did. He said he had been under the pressure of “threats to his life” which led him to be involved in such a high profile crime,
Mr Scholes strongly criticized a pre-sentence report that had been prepared for the hearing, saying his good work in prison was overlooked, including achieving improved status in maths, English and vocational learning.
He said Burtak had barely seen his three-year-old daughter following her imprisonment for a crime around the same time, adding, “The person who committed these offenses in 2019 no longer exists.”
Defending Naylor, Keith Harrison said the offense was committed by “twisted logic” that he had to provide more financially to the family. He said a brain injury had made him more impulsive than he had been before and the injuries meant he was struggling to find work. As a result, he wanted to contribute more to the family as his business owner wife.
Mr Harrison said: ‘He was unable to find work due to his physical condition. It’s twisted logic, but he felt unequal contributing nothing when his wife earned so much. He added that Naylor was caring for his daughter full time and the family would suffer during her inevitable time in prison.
During sentencing, Judge Sara Dodd said she needed more time than was available to sentence and adjourned the hearing until Thursday. Both men were taken into custody.