Burglars targeted a city centre restaurant in the early hours of the morning, putting the future of the business in potential jeopardy, a court heard.

Mark Turnbull, Terry Atkin and an unknown accomplice removed rear wooden shutters to gain access to Gussto, a Mediterranean tapas restaurant in Silver Street, Durham, at 5.25am on June 14.

Durham Crown Court was told the owner, who left the premises secure at midnight after the previous night’s trade, discovered the break-in later the following morning.

Annelise Haugstad, prosecuting, said a quantity of cash, 15 bottles of wine, a card payment machine and two lap-top computers, totalling £4,700 in value, were missing.

There was also the cost of repairing the shutters and replacing the stolen devices to factor into the loss, heightened by an inability to open the premises or receive deliveries until all forensic inquiries were completed.

Staff duty hours had to be cancelled at short notice as the owner had to pick up the pieces in the wake of the break-in.

Internal cctv at the premises helped police to recognise Turnbull and Atkin as two of the perpetrators.

Both were arrested and 41-year-old Turnbull, of The Crescent, Langley Park, made admissions in interview, while both he and 33-year-old Atkin, of Albert Street, Grange Villa, near Chester-le-Street, each admitted burglary when they appeared before magistrates days later.

Read more: Stanley man admitted burglary, knife and class C drug possession

Atkin also admitted shop theft, racially aggravated assault on a store security worker, criminal damage and breach of a criminal behaviour order, by visiting the Leadgate Co-op store, from where he was precluded from visiting.

Miss Haugstad said Atkin made racist remarks when challenged by the security worker as he tried to leave with £45-worth of stolen shopping from the Co-op, on April 18.

The court was told both defendants have extensive records, including a host of previous acquisitive crimes.

Caroline McGurk, for Atkin, said his crimes were committed to fund his addiction to cocaine and alcohol, and he was only released from a previous short prison sentence days before committing the Gussto burglary.

She said on release he was “motivated to rehabilitate himself” but was told it would be several weeks before he would start to receive benefits, and so he, “slipped back into his old habits.”

Miss McGurk said while in custody he has engaged with the alcohol and drugs teams to try to address his issues.

She added that he would like to apologise to the restaurant owner for the disruption caused.

Tony Davis, for Turnbull, said he has been living, “a chaotic lifestyle”.

Mr Davis said his client also acknowledges the “considerable inconvenience” he has caused to the restaurant owner.

“The reality is there is a stark choice for the court.

“If he does not have some form of intervention he will keep returning to court for these relatively low-level-type offences.

“He’s been in custody since June 14, and so has been behind bars for more than five weeks since the offence.”

Recorder Ian Mullarkey said the burglary has had, “a significant disruptive impact on the operation of the restaurant”.

He imposed a total prison sentence of 18 months on Atkin to reflect his catalogue of recent crime, including eight months for the burglary.

The recorder also imposed an eight-month sentence on Turnbull, for the burglary.

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