A family bakery in Tyne & Wear lost more than £2,000 last week after a drug addict crawled through an air vent and emptied the company safe.

Teresa Muldown, who co-owns baker’s shop Marshall’s, told British Baker that her husband, Robert, discovered the money had been taken as he arrived for work at 7.30am last Monday morning (24 February).

She explained that the family’s shop had a disused 18-inch extractor fan, which was sealed on the inside. However, it was visible from the outside. Burglar Kevin Thoburn knocked it out and crawled through, and now Muldown has warned other bakers to check their air vents.

She said: “We have shutters and all the other security precautions, but the burglar knocked the plastic cover off the vent and got in that way. The chap is going to prison, but we are not insured so we won’t be getting any money back.”

The 32-year-old burglar was traced by police to a caravan in an allotment, where he was sleeping rough. They found an invoice from the bakery among his things. He was arrested and pleaded guilty to burglary at Sunderland Magistrates’ Court last Wednesday.

The court heard Thoburn confessed he had stolen the cash, used £1,500 to clear a drug debt and spent the rest. Ian Cassidy, defending, said Thoburn had been homeless since he was released from prison after a 26-week sentence for another non-residential burglary, from January this year.

The key was left in the locking mechanism of the safe at the bakery, he said.

Magistrates ordered Thoburn to be sentenced at Newcastle Crown Court and remanded him in custody until the week commencing 17 March.

The one-shop family business in Houghton le Spring, Tyne & Wear employs four people and has been trading for nine years, Muldown said. The vent hole has now been bricked up.