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Suspected shoplifter coughed in hand and flicked it towards Lidl manager’s face

Irek Witkowski leaves Aberdeen Sheriff Court.
Irek Witkowski leaves Aberdeen Sheriff Court.

A yob taunted a Lidl store manager, telling him he now had Covid, after coughing into his hand and flicking it towards his face.

Irek Witkowski had been escorted into the staff canteen at Lidl on King Street after staff suspected he had been shoplifting.

The 44-year-old told staff he had coronavirus, after breaking a door handle in a bid to escape, coughed into his hand and flicked it towards the store manager’s face.

Witkowski then taunted that the man now had Covid.

Fiscal depute Felicity Merson told Aberdeen Sheriff Court: “At about 12pm on November 19 2020, members of staff were alerted to the accused’s presence and suspected him of shoplifting.”

He left but was stopped outside the shop and escorted back inside by the store manager and an area manager to the staff canteen area.

Mrs Merson said: “Whilst in the canteen, the accused said that he wanted to leave and removed his face mask.”

Witkowski then “advised” the two managers had he had Covid and that they would now have it too.

‘An act of complete stupidity’

Police were contacted, but while waiting for them to arrive, Witkowski became “agitated” and “demanded to be let go”.

He tried to force open the canteen door and ended up breaking the plastic handle.

Witkowski then approached the store manager, coughed into his hand and “flicked” it towards the man’s face, “telling him that he now had Covid because he wouldn’t let the accused go”.

Mrs Merson said this caused the man particular alarm as he suffered from multiple sclerosis and was at high risk of complications from coronavirus.

Police then attended and Witkowski was arrested.

Witkowski, of Seaton Road, Aberdeen, pled guilty to charges of assault and behaving in a threatening or abusive manner.

He was acquitted of a shoplifting charge after prosecutors accepted his not guilty plea.

Defence agent Alex Burn confirmed his client had not had Covid at the time of the offence, and had made the comments in the hope of scaring staff into letting him go.

He said Witkowski had shown victim empathy and remorse for his actions.

Mr Burn added: “This is just an act of complete stupidity on his part and he fully accepts that.”

Sheriff Andrew Miller told Witkowski the incident amounted to “serious offences, in particular because of your pretence that you had tested positive for Covid-19”.

He ordered him to be supervised for 12 months and complete 120 hours of unpaid work as an alternative to a custodial sentence.

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