A THIEVING postie who stole from 193 postal packages to fund his drink habit has been jailed.

Former Royal Mail postman Christopher Lowe appeared before Durham Crown Court on Tuesday, after admitting two counts of theft by an employee.

One covered a period from November 20, 2018, to December 11, 2019 – relating to the 193 postal packets – and the other involving, “an unknown quantity” of mail, between January 1, 2016, to December 11, last year.

The 42-year-old defendant, of Fleet Street, Bishop Auckland, admitted taking an estimated £200-plus, as well as eight gift cards belonging to the postal service.

The undelivered packages were found at his home, but Lowe told investigators he had been, “doing it”, for more than four years.

His crimes only came to light last November when a woman attempted to send a birthday card and a £20 Sainsbury's gift voucher to her brother via Royal Mail.

Lowe opened the card and instead of delivering the post gave the voucher to his wife who was unaware of his crimes.

Inquiries began when the post was not delivered and the card was tracked to his address.

When cautioned, Lowe admitted he had been stealing for years.

He then agreed to a search of his home and police found Debenhams, Next, and Smyths vouchers alongside cash in his bedside table.

A victim impact statement read: "I'm appalled the item of mail I posted to my brother was not delivered and someone took the gift card and used it for themselves. When items are posted people should have confidence their mail will be safely delivered."

Lowe, who represented himself during the court proceedings, condemned his own actions.

He said: "I really am very regretful and remorseful. My actions were totally unacceptable."

In a police interview, the former postman said he stole to fund his drink habit and said some of the money also went on slot machines.

Sentencing, Judge Ray Singh said: "Over a significant period of time you stole postal items directly which you were supposed to deliver.

"There was a high breach of trust on your part. The public is entitled to have faith in the postal system so that when they do post items of value they reach their destination. You have bought that into disrepute and the confidence the public has in the postal system has also been brought into disrepute.

"A deterrent sentence needs to be given to people who are in your position or a position of power. I accept a sentence of imprisonment is going to be particularly difficult for somebody who has never served time and the impact on your family as well. However, you took a responsible job and knew the consequences of your actions."

Lowe, who has no previous convictions was sentenced to four months imprisonment, half of which he will serve on licence.