A MAN who took a Royal Mail van from Mullion before dumping it outside the sorting office in Helston, was jailed at Truro Crown Court yesterday.

James Paul Wesley Pearson, aged 48, pleaded guilty to affray, assaulting a police officer, taking a vehicle without consent and driving with no insurance.

Prosecutor Adrian Chaplin explained how Pearson, of Mullion Cove, wore a cream coloured scarf over his face and a baseball cap when he approached the Peugeot Partner van at around 1.30pm on December 12 last year.

The van's engine was running and the driver's door was open while the postman sat at the wheel, sorting through letters.

Pearson demanded: "I want your van, give me your van."

The postman at first told him to go away, but as Pearson repeated his request, the postman noticed a shiny, silver article which he believed to be a knife.

He got out of the van and Pearson drove off, with the postman giving chase on foot. He was unable to call police because he had left his mobile phone in the van, so found a colleague delivering in another part of Mullion.

Mr Chaplin said that the postman's colleague was able to track the whereabouts of the van, via the electronic system fitted in Royal Mail's vehicles.

Pearson drove the van into Helston and dropped it off at the edge of the Royal Mail compound. Police were quickly on scene to restrain him, during which Pearson used his "considerable strength" to resist, kicking an officer in the face.

Mr Chaplin added that the postman, who has relatives in Mullion, had only just felt able to return to the village for the first time in the five months since his ordeal.

Defending, Deni Matthews said that it was an "opportunistic taking of a vehicle which had not been planned".

He said Pearson had been on his way to visit a friend in Truro and had camping equipment with him.

He said that an "unusual feature" of the offending was that Pearson had had the good sense to return it to the Post Office yard.

He added that the defendant has been "bedevilled by poor mental health", but that he was now stable and had the support of his parents.

Sentencing Pearson to nine months in prison for affray, Judge Simon Carr said the case was "as unusual as it is frightening".

He added that he had just been released from prison for violence and that he "approached and threatened" the postman, demanding it to such an extent that he abandoned it.

He said it was an offence more likely to be committed by a teenager and it had been "extremely frightening" for the victim, whose "mental vulnerability" had been made worse by Pearson's actions.

For assaulting the police officer he was given a three-month concurrent prison sentence; for taking the vehicle without consent he was disqualified from driving for six months. There was no separate penalty for driving without insurance.

Judge Carr also imposed a restraining order forbidding Pearson to contact the victim for five years.