FAMILY-run businesses in Darlington have voiced their fury after being hit by a series of break-ins.

Numerous stores in the Posthouse Wynd area of the town centre have had their front windows smashed since early December.

The latest target, the Health Shop, was hit in the early hours of January 20, leaving blood, glass and spoiled food for staff to clean up.

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Other shops to have suffered similar attacks include Sub Station, The Vape Shop, Eighteen Hair and Beauty, and the recently closed Hoity Toitea.

Kate Barker, manager of The Health Shop, said: “I was really angry that someone had come into our shop. These are all small, independent family businesses, it’s just not right.

“With all the break-ins that have happened we were more careful and took most of the money home. I guess we were lucky because if it wasn’t for the others then we wouldn’t have done it.”

Eighteen Hair and Beauty owner Joe Moss said a slab of concrete was used in an attempt to steal hair straighteners, despite the sign in the window stating the boxes were empty.

The traders’ voiced their frustration as Christopher Lee Corrie, 42, of Melland Street, Darlington, pleaded guilty to having targeted one of the stores.

Newton Aycliffe Magistrates Court heard he admitted a charge of burglary after forcing his way into a Sub Station before causing £1,700-worth of damage and stealing dozens of packs of meat.

Corrie climbed into the alley behind the Posthouse Wynd shop, early in the evening on January 4, before forcing open the fire door.

He returned later at night, entered the shop and stole ten tins of tuna, ten packets of bacon, seven packs of turkey, seven packs of ham and £50 cash from the till.

In the process he caused more than £1,700 of damage by attempting to steal a coffee machine and the till.

The court heard he had 46 previous convictions from 83 offences.

In mitigation, Corrie’s solicitor Graham Hunsley said: “I have known Mr Corrie for many years. He had a drug problem and for many years that governed his life.

“Shortly before Christmas he found himself homeless, on the street. I don’t think it is a surprise to find that most of what went missing was actually food stuffs. There was no question of deliberate damage.”

Magistrates gave him a 12-month community order and ordered him to pay £100 compensation and £45 costs.