A BAKERY manager who stole 11 tonnes of flour from his employers and sold it on at a discounted price has avoided a prison sentence.

Julian Owen, 46, of Upton Place, Beddau, and his accomplice Gary Beswick, 47, of Brown Close, Newport, who provided the transport to sell on £3,569-worth of flour, were handed suspended jail terms at Newport Crown Court on Friday.

The pair, who were convicted at trial after they pleaded not guilty to theft, were said to have taken advantage of Owen’s position in a joint venture behind the back of his employer D Gibbon and Sons, Esperanto Way.

The flour was ordered by Owen on the company’s accounts, but it never arrived at the Newport bakery, and to this day, only the defendants know where the flour went.

Russell Gibbon, who took over the running of the business from his father Derek, 76, eight years ago said initially there was no reason to suspect any wrongdoing as Owen ran it well and he had a “job for life.”

That was until the conman went on holiday and the bakery was running short of flour.

Mr Gibbon, 52, said invoices were coming in and it was found someone had been picking up flour on a regular basis fromthe supplier, Rank Hovis.

He asked his employee to come in and explain what happened as he did not want to take it further, but Owen “got a bit heated” and walked away from the business.

Steven Thomas, for Owen, said he handed several references into the court on his behalf, and the theft caused little harm to the business, over a short period from October to November, 2009.

Beswick, representing himself, described the offence as a “silly act” and not something he would normally do.

Judge Rhys Rowlands said the pair devised a scheme to order “significant quantities” of flour, breaching the trust put in Owen by his employer.

Owen received a sentence of eight months in prison suspended for two years, while Beswick was handed six months, suspended for the same period.

The pair will each have to pay £1,750 in compensation to the bakery, plus £750 prosecution costs and carry out 300 hours of unpaid work. PANEL 1 Director slams ‘silly’ thief THE director of the successful Newport bakery says he remains puzzled why the former general manager stole the flour, which could have made 18,200 loaves of bread.

The bakery, which has a turnover of £7 million, employs 46 people producing its Gibbons Family Bakers bread, including loaves for Hovis and Aldi.

Russell Gibbon said Owen, who used his extensive contacts in the baking industry to sell on the flour to make money, “deceived” him and failed to come clean when the theft was exposed.

“At the end of the day, I think he was very silly. He had a job for life and was on good money, a company phone and pretty flexible working hours,” Mr Gibbon said.

“It’s quite upsetting to be deceived. I was let down by somebody I trusted, he let the company down, he let himself down and it was just a shame it happened.”