A former sub-postmistress who admitted stealing more than £10,000 from a post office has been jailed for five months.

Debra Wheelhouse ran a post office in Burton-upon-Trent when the Royal Mail became concerned about irregularities, said Adrian Chaplin, prosecuting, at Stafford Crown Court.

Mr Chaplin said cash pouches were collected from her sub-post office by security staff. One contained only £250.

"It is the prosecution's case that she helped herself to over £10,000. She could not account for the substitution of one pouch with the higher amount of money for one with the lower amount," he said. Wheelhouse (43), of Common Lane, Fradley near Lichfield, pleaded guilty to one charge of stealing £10,075 in 2002. She denied two other charges of theft which remain on file.

Tony Rimmer, defending, said: "She accepts her culpa-bility. This was a significant breach of trust. There was a background of being under great stress. This was an impulsive offence of the modestly low figure of £10,000. She is genuinely contrite."

Judge Simon Tonking told Wheelhouse: "This was deliberate act and a gross breach of trust."

The judge did not make a compensation order and ruled that Wheelhouse should not pay £20,000 prosecution costs. ..SUPL: