A postal worker who was the inside man on a £7.8 million post office robbery was today starting a 15-year jail term.

Colin Edwards, 42, was captured on CCTV letting three armed, hooded robbers into the locked Post Office in Cambridge Road, Hastings.

The raiders handcuffed staff before ordering them into a bank vault while Edwards helped fill mailbags with bank notes. Croydon Crown Court heard Edwards, of Alexandra Road, Hastings, helped load the bags into a stolen van during the January 1996 raid.

A total of £7.8 million in cash was stolen, which detectives said ranked as the largest cash robbery in the UK.

The court heard Edwards had plotted with others for several weeks in the meticulous planning of the raid.

Recorder Mr Martin Joy said he supplied vital information on the layout and the routine of the Post Office where vast sums were stored.

He added: "You were a trusted employee of the Post Office in a high security area."

He was caught after police discovered a large amount of cash at his parents' home in Catford, south London.

Edwards denied conspiracy to rob, three charges of having firearms with intent and one charge of handling stolen money.

During the trial, Edwards claimed he had been forced to take part in the robbery because he had been led to believe his family had been kidnapped.

His mother, Sheila Edwards, 67, from Catford, pleaded guilty to handling stolen money and was jailed for five years.

A police raid found a total of £90,000 hidden in her home.

Detectives said the bulk of the haul had not been traced and the three robbers were still at large.