In a bizarre attempt to avoid jail, a conman of Indian-origin pretended to have gone dumb for more than a year after he was arrested for stealing £400,000 pounds from a post office in Manchester.
But Amritpal Mehat's efforts were futile as he was given a four-year prison term by a Manchester court.
Mehat, 26, claimed to be a deeply religious person and said that God had struck him dumb after he was arrested. His charade was exposed when he was ordered to go to a mental health institute while on remand and began chatting to a psychologist in Punjabi.
The conversation between the 'dumb' Mehat and the psychologist was played out in the Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court, where Judge Bernard Level sentenced him to four years in jail, reports from Manchester said.
The conversation was revealed in the court, when the jury unanimously decided he had been 'mute by malice' rather than mute by 'visitation of God'.
Mehat spoke publicly for the first time since his arrest, confirming his name and guilty plea to charges of conspiracy to steal from the post office and theft from the post office. Judge Lever said: "This was a wicked deception. You have had the crown jumping through forensic hoops for two years. A large number of experts were called to examine you at vast public expense. I ordered you to hospital for a month where you were unable to maintain your silence, though you had a good go."
Mehat stole the cash between November 2008 and January 2009, allegedly to stave off disaster for his family business, which included other post office franchises, the Manchester Evening News reported.
While stealing £408,000, he falsified accounts but used the computer user-name and password of employee Jacqueline Rigby to deflect blame. The judge said this was 'an ugly feature' of the case. The court was told that Mehat was caught after an audit of accounts in early January 2009.
Investigators realised somebody else had used Rigby's password and details, but she became so traumatised she could no longer face work and left.
Michael Rawlison, the defence lawyer, said: "It has taken him a long time to come to terms with it. He has been searching for a way to come to terms with what he has done. It is most unfortunate that it took him so long to plead guilty, and he has brought great shame on his family."