A BUSINESSMAN targeted by a thief who burgled his restaurant and took £6,500 from its safe has spoken about how the callous criminal nearly made him quit.

Jonathan Page, owner of Page’s Fish & Chips restaurant in Cwmbran, fell victim to Gareth Stone who was jailed for 18 months.

He welcomed the prison sentenced handed down but admitted the raid has had a significant impact on his business which has been in his family for three generations.

The 57-year-old former male model, who also owns Page’s Fish Bar in Sebastopol, Pontypool, first run by his grandfather back in 1949, said: “I am glad he is sat in his cell right now.”

Prosecutor Julia Cox told Cardiff Crown Court gambling addict Stone “cased the joint” at the business where own innocent pregnant wife Sarah worked as a supervisor.

After stealing the cash, Stone, aged 29, of Park Road, Penygarn, Pontypool, drove to Gatwick Airport where he planned to embark on a luxury US holiday.

The debt-ridden lorry driver booked a trip to Orlando to stay at a Hilton hotel for 14 nights and bought tickets for the Universal Studios theme park.

Miss Cox said the cost of the near £2,000 break was paid for in cash.

But Stone never boarded his plane. Having cold feet, he handed himself into police and later pleased guilty to burglary.

The court heard how the defendant took note of the restaurant’s burglar alarm code and had a key to the office where the safe was kept.

He had done so when picking up his wife and knew where to look for the key to the safe.

Miss Cox said Sarah Stone had “no involvement at all” in the burglary and that she was “devastated” when she found out about the break-in on Sunday, February 11, 2018.

On the day of the raid, she had locked up and the couple got home at around 12.30am after he had picked her up.

But she was woken in the night and saw her husband was fully dressed.

Her husband told her he was going to Barry and she thought nothing of it as he often went to the beach with a metal detector.

The court heard she became concerned when he was not back by 8am but he sent her a message saying he would be home soon.

Miss Cox said the manager went to the restaurant later that morning and found the door was unlocked and the weekend’s takings of £6,500 had gone from the safe.

Judge Nicola Jones was told the couple’s relationship was now over as a result of the husband’s crime.

Speaking to the Argus, Mr Page said: “I didn’t attend court for the sentencing because it would have been hard to keep calm.

“Sarah went and she gave us the news. She was devastated by what he had done. She went on maternity leave but is back working with us now.

“Not only was what he did a financial blow to the business, it was quite an emotional one for me too.

“I felt like giving up. You work hard building your business up only for something like this to happen.”

Mr Page, who travelled the world in the 1980s and 1990s as a model and who featured in a Cadbury’s advert and one promoting milk made by Alien director Ridley Scott’s company, added: “We are much more careful with security now and don’t leave any cash on the premises.

“I am very satisfied with the outcome of his sentence. I had feared he might get a suspended term – that would have been a real kick in the teeth.

“I have a very low opinion of him. I am glad he sat in his cell right now.

“He was so brazen and we’ve got CCTV footage of him taking a photograph of the alarm key pad and then looking online at how to disarm it.”

His victim impact statement was read to the court, in which he said: “Myself and my employees work extremely hard and it angers me to think of Gareth spending the company’s money as if it were his own.”

He said he was unable to pay his suppliers promptly as a result of the burglary and felt less able to trust his staff.

Mr Page added: “I have lost sleep after this incident.”

A pre-sentence report read to the court heard how Stone was “addicted to gambling” and had debts of £35,000 at the time of the offence.

A large amount of this arrears was also as a result of buying cars on finance and he regularly had bailiffs knocking at his door.

Hashim Salmman mitigating, said his client had pleaded guilty and that there had been an “unacceptable delay” of 14 months in the case coming to its conclusion.

Judge Jones said Stone’s offending was so serious that an immediate custodial sentence was the only option.

She also noted that the defendant had made no effort to pay back any of the money to Mr Page.