Burglars steal wrapped presents destined for needy children
The team running the country's biggest foodbank said it "beggared belief" that burglars had broken in to steal wrapped Christmas presents destined for needy children.
Thieves caused thousands of pounds of damage to the West End Foodbank in Benwell, Newcastle, when they ripped a hole in the wall panels to get in.
Staff found the office had been "trashed" when they went to open up at 8.30am on Tuesday, then were shocked to find presents were missing.
The damage has forced a two-day closure of the foodbank which serves 1,000 people a week, offering hot meals and parcels of essentials.
Project manager Michael Nixon said: "We saw the office was trashed and we looked on in amazement.
"Then we went further into the building and realised there was a draught.
"Lo and behold there was a hole in the wall.
"One of the 8ft by 4ft steel-clad panels had been ripped off - they must have gone at it with a hammer and chisel.
"They got into the office, saw the children's presents and took them."
Mr Nixon said the foodbank was not the real victim.
"It's not as if they have stolen the toys from us, they have stolen them from the children who would have got them for Christmas," he said.
"If they had come to us and asked us for toys we would have done our best to help them.
"It beggars belief that people would do this. Clients are turning up and are horrified, they cannot believe anyone would do this."
For its Christmas appeal, the West End Foodbank had asked for donations of toys worth up to £5 for primary school children.
Parents would receive them with their food parcel so they could have a present to give at Christmas.
Mr Nixon said people could help by donating toys, food, cash for the repair bill or their time.
The foodbank's website is http://newcastlewestend.foodbank.org.uk/ and Mr Nixon can be contacted via email on email@example.com.
Northumbria Police appealed for information.
Assistant manager Matthew King said the public's response had been "incredible".
Local people were at the foodbank this morning when it opened to donate toys, while companies had encouraged staff to have gifts bought online delivered to the centre.
A local security firm was installing an alarm for free, while a building contractor wanted to work on the repairs.
Mr King said: "It has been a mix of emotions for us as staff, from one of sheer despair yesterday at finding the building broken into and toys removed, to real joy in your heart that the local community is responding."