A DRUG addict postman who repeatedly stole mail looking for cash - bizarrely dumping some in his bath - has been jailed for ten months.

Mail taken by Michael Easton included an important letter with a woman's cancer results, correspondence from her employer and a condolence card to another woman whose sister had died.

Another woman did not receive a letter from her solicitors over civil proceedings nor a cheque for a share certificate.

Liverpool Crown Court heard that a man cancelled his order with a supplier, saying he was "disgusted by someone opening his post" and others spoke of their disappointment at undelivered greetings cards and their loss of faith in the postal system.

Easton was caught out after Royal Mail investigators put six test items into two post boxes from which he collected mail. Suspicions had been aroused after a total of 196 mistreated greetings cards were found on the damaged mail desk at Chester mail centre between July and September last year.

Inquiries pointed to Easton being the culprit and so the test items were posted on his round.

Andrea Fitzgerald, prosecuting, said: "A check was made of his collection when it was received and none of the test items could be found.

"When he was approached by Royal Mail investigators he said: 'I've taken the mail in the sack and I've been doing it for the last few months.'”

His van was searched and 65 undelivered items were discovered from that day, September 20 last year, and £55 and a 50 Euro note were found on him.

At his home in New Ferry Road, New Ferry 2,572 mail items were found, 107 of which were greeting cards which had been opened.

Some of the mistreated mail was found in delivery pouches inside and outside his home with address details ripped off some.

"Some of the mail had been damaged by water as a result of being piled in the bath or left outside," said Miss Fitzgerald.

When interviewed he admitted opening between 300 to 400 greeting cards over the last few months and stealing about £800 from them.

He also admitted intentionally destroying a large quantity of mail and trying to destroy some of it.

Easton, 47, who had been a postman for 12 years in New Ferry, pleaded guilty to three charges of theft, intentionally delaying the delivery of more than 1,700 items, opening mail and one of criminal damage.

Judge Rachel Smith told bachelor Easton, who had no supporters in court: "You knew what you had been doing was wrong, you had been targeting greeting cards for money because of financial difficulties resulting from having a drug habit.

"You were charged with the responsibility of collecting posted mail, you were therefore trusted to work alone and without supervision. In my view that constitutes a high degree of trust."

Judge Smith said she accepted that he: "was remorseful and utterly ashamed having heard the affect on some of his victims" and he has no previous convictions.

But she told him: "You were a recreational cocaine user who developed an addiction and your thoughts turned to criminality.” A jail sentence would "punish and deter and reflect the seriousness" of his behaviour, she said.

"The fact that there were people who needed medical information, legal information, to pass on expressions of emotion and support to friends and relatives is an indication why there must be a clear deterrent message that members of staff of the Post Office who steal from within the postal system will receive immediate sentences."

Defence barrister Rebecca Smith told the court that Easton had suffered serious knee injuries in a motor cycle accident some years ago, which led to him using Tramadol and cocaine.

This resulted in a low level addiction and he began getting loans to fund his habit, which led to a vicious circle with him eventually turning to theft to keep his head above the water.