A POSTMASTER who stole thousands from his post office today apologised for his crime.
Purgan Gill, 40, was spared jail after stealing nearly £19,000 in a lottery payment scam.
Cash handed over by customers placing their weekly lotto numbers was kept by Mr Gill, rather than being forwarded on to the Post Office.
Mr Gill, of South Hylton, today said he was sorry for his actions and that he replaced the money at the earliest opportunity.
He said: “This was a one off. I’ve been here 17 years and nothing like this had happened before. It’s not my normal character to do something like this.
“I just want to get back to normality as soon as possible and carry on with everything.
“The money was replaced straightaway, more or less.”
Mr Gill also extended his thanks to customers and the local community who he said have helped him through this difficult time.
“I want to say thanks to all the customers for their support. The customers and the community, it means a lot to have had their support and I want to say sorry for any inconvenience my actions have caused.”
“Everyone has been coming in and saying they are glad it worked out this way and that they didn’t want to see me behind bars. It’s really touching how many people have given their support.”
Mr Gill, who runs Costcutter in the village, ran into financial difficulty when a proposed bank loan of £90,000 was reduced to £60,000.
At a hearing last week he pleaded guilty to stealing £18,989 from the post office, which operates inside the Costcutter, between July 1 and August 23 last year.
Mr Gill told the Echo he now wished he had addressed his problems head on.
“It would have been much better if I had gone to my family in the first place, but your pride gets in the way of it.”
Newcastle Crown Court heard that Mr Gill had used the stolen money to help pay for and renovate the Railway Terrace business as he had been too proud to ask for financial help from family members.
But now Mr Gill is eager to move on from his offence.
“I want to put this behind me,” he said. “I’ve never given anyone reason to doubt me in the past, nothing like this has happened before and it won’t again.
Mr Gill was sentenced to four months’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, with 250 hours’ unpaid work and £1,000 costs.
He added a warning to others who might find themselves in financial difficulty.
“If anyone else has a problem like this then turn to your families, get help before it reaches this stage,” he said.