Fowlmere sub-post master spared jail thanks to generous villagers

PUBLISHED: 11:19 29 March 2010 | UPDATED: 16:17 11 May 2010

A SUB post master who stole more than £28,000 from the Royal Mail has thanked villagers who helped him avoid jail. Graham Warnes, sub postmaster at Fowlmere post office, took the cash to help prop up the village shop which he has also run on the same site

A SUB post master who stole more than £28,000 from the Royal Mail has thanked villagers who helped him avoid jail.

Graham Warnes, sub postmaster at Fowlmere post office, took the cash to help prop up the village shop which he has also run on the same site for 21 years.

But a hearing at Luton Crown Court last Wednesday heard that he had been able to repay the cash thanks to loans from local residents.

Warnes, of Westfield Road, Fowlmere, pleaded guilty to one count of theft, was given a nine-month jail term, suspended for a year, and ordered to undertake 200 hours unpaid work.

Speaking after the case, the 55-year old, who still runs the village shop, said: "All I can say is that there is a big thank you from me to the villagers for their support and I will do all I can to put things right."

He added that he and his wife, Sarah, wanted to put the episode behind them.

"What the villagers did was really tremendous and the support has been outstanding. It is not until something like this happens that you realise just how fantastic people can be and who your friends are.

"I don't think it would be fair of me to start staying who it was who lent me the money. It wouldn't be fair.

"They know who they are and I am just so very grateful to them. All I can say is that it was more a spread of people that helped me rather than someone coming up with thousands of pounds," he added.

The offence took place between August 2007 - August 2009, and was spotted when an audit of the post office flagged up an unusually high number of stamp transactions.

It subsequently became clear that there was a deficit of £28,500.

Warnes immediately admitted taking the money.

Defence lawyer Kevin McCartney said: "People who engage in financial crime normally do so to fund greed or fund a lifestyle they couldn't afford.

"That doesn't apply in this case. The motivation was to try and ensure the shop side of the business was able to continue."

Mr McCartney added that church-goer Warnes was "normally scrupulously honest" and "held in high regard and affection by those in the village."

Passing sentence, Judge Barbara Mensah said: "What stands out here is the fact that the money didn't go to support an extravagant lifestyle. But it was for your benefit."

As well as the suspended jail sentence and unpaid work, Warnes was also ordered to pay back £965 prosecution costs.

The sub-post office in Fowlmere closed following Warnes' arrest, but post office services re-started last week and are now hosted at the Queen's Head pub in the village.

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