A FORMER policeman has been jailed for faking an armed robbery at a village post office and stealing more than £26,000 from the safe.
Paul Ingham told officers masked men brandishing a handgun threatened him while raiding the Post Office in Cockfield, near Bishop Auckland, County Durham, as he locked up.
The 60-year-old, who worked as a relief postal worker, while his estranged wife was the sub-post mistress, gave detectives a detailed description of the raid.
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Durham Crown Court heard he hatched the plan after turning to drink in recent years and was sinking up to two bottles of whisky a day.
But a thorough police investigation revealed his lies and he was arrested and charged with theft and perverting the course of justice.
Detective Inspector Paul Phillips, of Durham Constabulary’s serious crime team, said: “Mr Ingham’s lies led to a great deal of police time and resources being wasted.
“During the inquiry by a full team of detectives he maintained his claim that the post office had been robbed by two intruders brandishing a gun.
“However, the weight of evidence presented to him by the investigators made it impossible for him to continue with his lies.”
Ingham, who served a Royal protection officer while the Metropolitan Police as well as the Royal Air Force, called police to report the robbery at 5.40pm on Tuesday, March 25.
John Gillette, prosecuting, said: “He said he was confronted by two males. He said the first one was dressed in black and had a scarf across his mouth and was carrying a revolver. He said it was a .38 calibre Smith and Wesson model.
“He claimed the man with the gun threatened to shoot him unless he opened the safe.”
Ingham told police he was forced lie on the ground while the fictitious robbers made good their escape.
But investigators became suspicious after carrying out extensive inquiries and studying CCTV which suggested nothing untoward had taken place.
Ingham was arrested and police found £3,000, including cash in sealed bundles, in a plastic bag in linen basket at his home.
Today (Friday, May 23), he pleaded guilty to single charge of theft and perverting the course of justice.
The investigation also revealed anomalies in the Post Office accounts and Ingham admitted five counts of fraud totalling almost £2,700.
The court heard he took cash sums for cheques supposedly paid in by customers, which did not exist, between December last year and February.
Ingham, who lived above the Post Office, on Front Street Cockfield, said his former wife, who lives nearby, had nothing to do with his offending.
Ian West, mitigating, said: “His problem had been a blight of alcohol. Towards the end he was drinking two bottles of whisky a day. He does not know how he got through the day. His arrest and incarceration has been perhaps his saviour.”
Jailing him for 20 months, Judge Simon Hickey said he had no other option.
He said: “You are of good character and have been in public service all of your life but now that is gone forever.
“Of course, I considered suspending the sentence but in your case I cannot, breaching the trust as you did.”