A KIDNAPPER who attacked two shopkeepers with an axe handle and threatened to set two of his robbery victims on fire has been given an 18-year sentence by a judge.

Preston Crown Court heard how drug addict Mark Alex O’Mara’s first offence took place at Padiham Store in Padiham where he entered around 3.30pm on October 28, last year, wearing a mask.

Prosecuting David Traynor said O’Mara immediately sprayed shopkeeper Keith Crossley with PAVA spray.

Struggling to see anything Mr Crossley grabbed at O’Mara’s face and removed the mask but was then sprayed a second time.

O’Mara then punched Mr Crossley, knocking his glasses off, before saying: “Give me everything in the till.”

Mr Crossley, who is in his 60s, picked up a wooden axe handle to defend himself but was disarmed by the defendant.

Mr Traynor said O’Mara then hit Mr Crossley with the weapon to the body and to both sides of the head, knocking him over twice. As this was going on O’Mara said to Mr Crossley: “Just give me the money. I am desperate. Open the till.”

Mr Crossley’s wife Janet, also in her 60s, heard what was going on and attempted to push O’Mara out of the shop with a broom. But the defendant struck her hand with the axe handle, knocking her over.

With O’Mara repeatedly making demands for money, Mr Traynor said the Crossley’s felt they had little option but to comply.

O’Mara escaped with £140 from the till and cigarettes, but before he left he noticed a CCTV camera and demanded the Crossleys handed over any footage.

In his victim impact statement Mr Crossley said he felt he might go blind as a result of the attack and said he him and his wife, who have run the shop for more than 20 years, now fear going to work. He said turnover was down 50 per cent with customers fearing to go into the shop.

Mr Traynor said the second incident, a kidnapping and robbery, happened on June 3, after victim Jason Ramsey received a phone call from O’Mara asking him to meet him in a lay-by in Burnley.

Mr Ramsey arrived about 3pm and saw the defendant whom he knew and a woman he didn’t know, O’Mara’s co-defendant Janine Apostolloff Boyarin, approaching his Volkswagen Golf GTI.

O’Mara got into the passenger side and poured petrol onto Mr Ramsey’s lap.

Sitting with a lighter in his hand O’Mara said to Mr Ramsey: “We’re taking the car. Jump in the back.”

With Mr Ramsey in the back seat, Boyarin drove the car for a short distance before stopping to allow O’Mara to open the boot. He then got an iron from the boot and used the cord to tie Mr Ramsey’s hands to the driver’s head rest, before covering his hands with a dressing gown so nobody outside the vehicle would know he had been taken hostage.

Boyarin stopped the car near the New Waggoners pub in Burnley, where O’Mara untied Mr Ramsey.

He then told him: “Don’t report the car missing until tonight. I know where your kids go to school. I know where your mum lives.”

Mr Ramsey was then allowed to leave and contacted the police. But the 66-plate Golf has never been recovered.

The court heard third incident, another robbery, happened two days later.

Waqas Altaf was driving slowly in Lathe Street, Burnley, when he saw a woman waving for assistance.

When Mr Altaf pulled over he asked the woman, who Mr Traynor said the police confirmed was not Boyarin, was OK. Mr Traynor said O’Mara pushed the woman out of the way and sprayed acetone, which has highly flammable vapours, through the window.

Having covered Mr Altaf in acetone O’Mara shouted: “I’ll burn you. Get out of the car. I don’t give a f***. I’ll burn you.”

Mr Altaf said O’Mara grabbed the steering wheel, which led to him instinctively putting his foot on the accelerator to get away.

Mr Traynor said O’Mara turned the steering wheel and the car hit a lamppost and the front of some terraced houses.

A disorientated Mr Altaf then remembered seeing O’Mara in the front of his car, which had been severely damaged in the crash, holding a lighter.

Believing he had been covered in petrol, Mr Altaf feared for his life as O’Mara flicked spark of the lighter.

Mr Altaf was directed by O’Mara to drive to some nearby wasteland.

He then emptied the victim’s pockets of a driving licence and £400 cash. He also took a Fred Perry jacket and a bag of new clothes.

O’Mara, 25, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to three robberies, kidnapping, and possessing a weapon. The court heard he has convictions for slashing a man in the face and attacking another with a fence post.

Boyarin, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to robbery and kidnapping.

Defending, Daniel Lister said: “He has been on anti-psychotic medication since 2014. At the time of this offending Mr O’Mara was homeless and not taking his medication. This man was operating with mental health difficulties and drug addiction.”

Defending Boyarin, Wayne Jackson said his client – a mother-of-three with two children in foster care – is due to give birth to her fourth child in Styal Prison. Mr Jackson told Judge Robert Altham that mother and baby would only be able to stay together there for 18 months.

O’Mara was deemed to be a dangerous offender and sentenced to 13 years and 10 months. Telling O’Mara that when he is released he will be subject to a five-year extended licence period, Judge Altham added: “In the grips of your addiction you are out of control.” Boyarin was jailed for 33 months. She was told she would serve half of that before being released on licence, meaning she won’t be separated from her baby.