Thief’s £3,500 wrecking spree at Alice in Wonderland-inspired cafe

Suzanne Edmonds outside her cafe-restaurant in Sea Road.

Suzanne Edmonds outside her cafe-restaurant in Sea Road.

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A CAFÉ owner has hit out at the sentence given to a thief who trashed her business.

Lee Joseph Devine, of Newcastle Road, was given a suspended jail term after he broke into The Mad Hatter, in Fulwell, with another man.

Although the 33-year-old claimed he only made £10 from the raid, Suzanne Edmonds was left with a £3,500 bill to replace stolen electrical items and repair the pair’s wrecking spree, which has been passed to her insurance firm.

Miss Edmonds, who runs the popular café with business partner Debra Elkins, said: “We are disappointed in the sentence, the fact that he has not gone to prison.

“They smashed one of the ovens and there was food thrown all over the floor.

“I imagine they were looking for cash, but we don’t keep any on the premises.

“There was a lot of disruption to the business.”

Miss Edmonds, who has worked in the restaurant industry all of her career, added: “We are just decent people trying to make a living here and we don’t need this in our lives.”

The Sea Road eaterie, which will have been open for two years in April, managed to keep serving despite the chaos.

But the yobs snatched a jar of tips and an oven worth about £2,000 was destroyed during the break-in on January 3.

Devine was given a 12-week sentence, suspended for two years, at Sunderland Magistrates’ Court on Monday.

Prosecutor Paul Anderson said he was caught after DNA on blood from a smashed window was matched to his.

Unemployed Devine first claimed he was so drunk, he could not remember what happened and refused to say who he was with.

But he later admitted his part and pleaded guilty at a hearing on January 30.

Thief Devine smashed a window with his fist to get into the café, then the pair took turns as lookouts while they ransacked the place.

Police were alerted by the business’s alarm and were there before owners arrived at 8am to open up.

The court heard that an insurance claim had been made, forcing the shop to pay a £350 excess.

Defence solicitor Ian Cassidy said Devine had not committed any offences for seven years and had recently found a job.

He added: “He made a very foolish mistake and went along with the co-defendant.

“He was in drink and was in a mental place where he would not normally be.”

As well as a two-year suspended sentence, magistrates ordered Devine pay £175 compensation to his victims and £85 court costs.

l A 26-year-old man has also pleaded guilty to theft and will be sentenced at Newcastle Crown Court.

Twitter: @janethejourno