A POST office manager who committed a “gross breach of trust” has been jailed after she admitted stealing £14,000 from her employer.

Maureen Higham, of Kersington Crescent, Oxford, was handed a 15-month prison sentence at Oxford Crown Court on Tuesday.

She narrowly avoided prison in 1995 when she confessed to stealing almost £6,000 from the Ladbrokes betting shop where she was then manager.

At that hearing Recorder Jeremy Storey sentenced her to one year’s probation and told her: “It is not likely you will commit this offence again.”

But on both occasions she blamed her crimes on falling into debt and needed money to make repayments.

Higham, 57, stole around £1,000 a month from the Midcounties Co-operative post office in Templars Square, Cowley, between April 2011 and June 2012.

She was finally caught when colleague, Christine Chambers, caught her crouched next to a safe sealing bank pouches with sellotape and scissors.

Jane Malcolm, defending, said Higham had got the job in 2006 and worked her way up to the level of manager.

But because of mortgage repayments and other costs she ran up debts of around £21,000 and started stealing to pay them off.

In total, £34,000 went missing from the Cowley post office while Higham was working there, but she was only charged with the theft of £14,000.

Miss Malcolm said: “She is incredibly ashamed of what she has done.

“She considered this job her life, it had given her back some confidence after being made redundant in 2005.

“She started borrowing £300 or £400, intending to pay it back, and she did pay it back.

“But that left her in more debt and the next month she took money again and didn’t pay it back.

“She kept taking more and more to try to get out of debt.”

Miss Malcolm added that Higham felt especially guilty because her mortgage was shared with her sister, who she lived with and who would now have to pay it alone.

She added that in February this year her client had taken an overdose of paracetamol and was having suicidal thoughts.

But Judge Ian Pringle said she had committed a “gross breach of trust” and he could not avoid sending her to prison.

He added: “You gained their trust and at some stage in 2011 you decided to start helping yourself to money.

“In total you have admitted you stole £14,000 over a period of about 14 months.

“And you know better than most what you were doing, because you have a previous conviction for a very similar offence.

“You had a high degree of trust and you grossly breached that.”