A COCAINE-using postman who plundered cash and valuables from hundreds of Christmas cards and parcels to fuel his addiction has been jailed for eight months.

Ashley Duree, 28, dumped bin bags of rifled mail at a recycling centre and threw opened letters and packages into public litter bins, Bradford Crown Court heard yesterday.

Duree, of Western Fold, Buttershaw, Bradford, pleaded guilty to two charges of stealing postal packets from the Royal Mail between November 1 and December 10 last year.

The court heard he had taken about 500 items of mail, making between £600 and £1,000 from his dishonesty.

Prosecutor Rehana Popal said that Duree was caught after staff at Dealburn Recycling Centre in Low Moor, Bradford, saw him acting suspiciously while disposing of two bin bags.

The sacks were recovered and found to contain hundreds of “mistreated” postal packages.

More stolen items of mail were found in Duree’s car.

He was arrested and immediately confessed to taking anything of value from the post over the past month to pay for his £140 a week cocaine habit.

Duree, who had worked for the Royal Mail for ten years, had no previous convictions, the court heard.

Miss Popal said it had cost almost £2,000 for the Royal Mail to bring the prosecution.

Duree’s solicitor advocate, Andrew Walker, conceded that the case passed the custody threshold.

“He took drugs socially and it got completely out of hand. He was on a self-destructive path,” Mr Walker said.

Duree made full admissions when questioned and quickly resigned from his job.

He had hidden his cocaine addiction from his family and immediately stopped taking drugs after his arrest.

Duree, who married last October, had also sought help from the Bridge Project, the court heard.

Always a hard working man, he had got another job, with Morrison Utility Services, and had offered to pay the Royal Mail’s costs from his Post Office pension, said Mr Walker, who added that Duree knew what he had done was very serious.

“He realises it is the type of offence that strikes at the heart of the Royal Mail,” he told the court.

Judge David Hatton QC said Duree had stolen the contents of many postal packages towards the end of last year.

“Many people will have lost varying amounts financially, and other goods of value,” Judge Hatton told Duree as he jailed him.

“You were in a position of considerable responsibility and what you did undermines the integrity of the postal service, and the public’s confidence in it.”

Judge Hatton also told Duree it was his duty to impose an immediate custodial sentence.

“It will act as a deterrent, if necessary, to give the public the confidence they are entitled to have, and need to have, in the service,” he said.

The judge ordered the Royal Mail’s costs be paid from central funds.