“WE WILL always seek to prosecute” warned the Royal Mail after it revealed an individual being investigated in relation to alleged mail interference no longer worked for the company. 

A succession of people have been in touch with The Westmorland Gazette to report receiving post which had apparently been opened prior to arrival. MP Tim Farron said his office had been ‘inundated’ with reports. 

In a statement sent to Mr Farron, a spokesman for the Royal Mail described these instances as ‘deeply disappointing’.

The spokesman said the company was probing the matter and an individual being investigated was no longer employed by the Royal Mail.

“The safety of the mail we handle is of the utmost importance,” he said.

“We adopt stringent and effective methods of safe handling to ensure the integrity of mail.

“All Royal Mail staff are security checked prior to their employment commencing, and we adopt many methods of monitoring within our delivery offices and mail centres.

“There is an ongoing investigation currently being conducted by our internal security team.

“I am sure you will appreciate I am unable to go into a lot of detail while the investigation is ongoing.

“I would like to assure you that we take any report of theft, mishandling or intentional delay of the mail very seriously.

“We will always seek to prosecute.”

Since publication of the article last week, the Gazette has received a series of calls and emails from residents of Kendal and South Lakeland saying they had received or sent post which had apparently been ‘tampered with’.

Among these were:

- Judith Blaydes, of Kendal, said her step-sister, who lives in Ilkley, West Yorkshire, 'poured her heart out' in a letter which she wrote after Mrs Blaydes' husband died in April. On Tuesday morning, Mrs Blaydes said she received the empty envelope in the post - she could tell who sent it by the handwriting - and her step-sister received the letter back at her address in Ilkley.

- John Nicholson, of Kendal, said he received an empty envelope on July 14 which had been posted on May 25. An empty envelope - presumably meant to contain a card for his wife's birthday in April - arrived on July 23. A card that his wife sent in March to a friend for her birthday did not arrive until July 24. Mr Nicholson said another empty envelope arrived on Monday, while a cheque he sent to the treasurer of Kendal United Reformed Church in June arrived on July 23 in a plastic wallet with an apology letter but, bizarrely, without the envelope it was sent in.

- Debbie Bartlam, of Oxenholme, said she sent a card congratulating her friend in Manchester on the birth of her child at the beginning of June but did not hear back from her. The card, however, only arrived in the last week and Ms Bartlam received a WhatsApp message of thanks. She sent another card in April to a friend whose husband died of coronavirus. "I haven't heard from her either and I can't chase that up," said Ms Bartlam.

- Norman Lobb, of Kendal, said a birthday card arrived in a plastic wallet with an apology letter, but the card and its envelope were separate from each other. Within the last fortnight three empty envelopes have also arrived. He felt the Royal Mail had lost a lot of 'trust' with these incidents.

- Loretta Ward, of Kendal, said she sent £40 across three separate cards for her son's and grandchildren's birthdays. Mrs Ward said none arrived but that she had not lodged a complaint. She said: "I thought 'well, what's the point?' Are they going to recuperate that money? There's no proof that I sent it. I didn't put a return address. I have never thought of doing that when I send birthday cards." She said nothing like this had ever happened to her ‘until now’.

MP Tim Farron said: “Since this story hit the front page of the Gazette last week, my office has been inundated with people who have had cards and money go missing.

“I’m glad that Royal Mail have taken action and are returning the stolen mail.

“It’s such a shame that the actions of one person have caused reputational damage to the many postal workers who do an amazing job and have worked continuously throughout this pandemic.”

A spokeswoman for the Royal Mail said the company had nothing to add to the information sent to the Gazette last week or the statement sent to Mr Farron.

A spokeswoman for Cumbria Constabulary said there was ‘no record’ of the incident being reported to the police.