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Villagers supported thieving postmaster


London : A popular sub-postmaster who stole more than 28,000 pounds (about $41,000) from Royal Mail to help keep his branch open has been spared jail after a judge heard how villagers rallied round to help him repay his employers, a media report said Friday.

For 21 years Graham Warnes was a familiar face behind the counter of the village shop with its tiny sub-post office.

But when the shop got into financial difficulties three years ago, he tried to keep it afloat by stealing money from the post office, Daily Express reported on its website.

The married father-of-one regularly took cash belonging to Royal Mail to keep the shop going, which he saw as an essential hub for villagers in Fowlmere, near Royston, Herts.

The thefts came to light last August when an audit was carried by Royal Mail and Warnes was arrested.

But at Luton Crown Court Judge Barbara Mensah was told the sub-postmaster was held in such high regard by villagers he had been able to repay the money he stole thanks to loans they made him.

Warnes, 55, pleaded guilty to a single charge of the theft of 28,597 pounds from Royal Mail between August 2007 and August 2009.

Kevin McCartney, defending, said: “He is someone who got himself into a mess and a muddle trying to keep a business going when he was not applying proper business sense.

“He took the view he was borrowing the money and there was in his mind an intention to pay it back. The inevitable happened. The deficit built up.”

Warnes was given a nine-month jail term suspended for 12 months and ordered to carry out 200 hours unpaid work and pay 965 pounds in court costs.

The business has since closed but a postal service will soon resume for two hours a day from the village pub.