French postman guilty of stealing 13,000 letters

A French postman, with a "compulsive hoarding disorder", was handed a prison sentence this week for stealing some 13,000 letters over a ten-year period. La Poste has promised to return all the correspondence that police found in his attic.

French postman guilty of stealing 13,000 letters
All those letters that went missing might just turn up soon. Photo: AFP

Perhaps this explains where those missing birthday cards got to.

A French court has handed down a six-month suspended sentence to a "compulsive" postman who stole some 13,000 letters and stored them secretly in his attic for more than a decade.

The retired postman, 62, from north-eastern France, was also fined €4,000 ($4,500).

His employer, La Poste, has agreed to return all the stolen letters, the oldest of which dates back to 2001.

After years under suspicion, the unnamed postal worker was caught red-handed in 2011 when La Poste laid a trap by planting a letter filled with a powder that stained his hands and clothes.

The police then found his haul in the attic: 13,694 letters — many of which were never opened — and some 6,000 postcards.

His lawyer David Jeanmaire told AFP the man suffered from a "compulsive hoarding disorder".

"He told police he was attracted by the colour and shape of certain letters, like a magpie drawn towards shiny objects," said Jeanmaire.

"If it was just for stealing money, he would have opened everything, and above all, he would have got rid of the letters."

Jeanmaire said the postcards were a way for the postman to "travel by proxy".

"His behaviour was a little curious," conceded a lawyer for La Poste, Sandrine Crucy, though she said he still had material concerns and used the money to fill up his car.

More than 550 customers were listed as claimants in the trial in the town of Thionville, although the court only awarded damages to a small group totalling around €900.

Since 1790, postal workers in France have taken an oath to scrupulously protect the items they carry and the secrecy of correspondence.

In December, more than 23,500 undelivered letters were found in the home of a postwoman in Gironde in the Bordeaux region. She is currently facing trial.

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