A postman who failed to deliver nearly 42,000 items of mail - causing one customer to be visited by bailiffs, and another to miss out on pension payments - has walked free from court.
Spencer Ballinger, whose bedroom was ‘choc-a-block’ with undelivered letters, was handed a 12-month community order.
He must carry out 150 hours’ unpaid work and pay £500 costs.
Simon Gwynne, prosecuting, told Sheffield magistrates’ court: “He was glad when matters came to light. He said if it had continued it would have killed him.”
The court heard investigators searched Ballinger’s home and found his bedroom and two cars stuffed full of mail - 41,874 items in total - which he had failed to deliver.
Sheffield magistrates heard the 43-year-old had become ‘overwhelmed’ with his deliveries, and built up a backlog of thousands of items of post over two years.
Royal Mail bosses launched a covert investigation after receiving complaints about delayed mail from residents in Burncross, Grenoside and Chapeltown.
Mr Gwynne said investigators tailed Ballinger - and caught him tipping post into the boot of his car at the end of his shift.
Ballinger was interviewed by Royal Mail bosses the next day, and told them he was suffering back and knee injuries and had taken the mail home.
“He said he’d planned to reintroduce it at a later stage,” Mr Gwynne added.
“Every time he went into the bedroom - which was chock-a-block with mail - he was aware of the ongoing problem.”
Mr Gwynne said investigators also found around 1,062 items of junk mail, and 103 opened postal packets.
A further 295 items had been damaged because Ballinger, of Blacksmith Court, Thorpe Hesley, Rotherham, had tried to shred them.
One of his victims, a Sheffield nurse, was forced to shell out £400 for a minor motoring offence because a letter about her original fine was one of thousands withheld by Ballinger.
The 34-year-old was even visited by bailiffs demanding cash after she mistakenly drove through a bus gate in Sheffield city centre.
And Peter Carder, 64, of Burncross, told The Star Ballinger’s failure to deliver his post meant he had missed out on a better pension deal - and the postman’s dishonesty would cost him £1 a day for the rest of his life.
Mr Gwynne said the investigation had cost Royal Mail £5,470 and £300 in legal costs.
He said £3,381 in compensation had been recouped from Ballinger’s pension.
Ballinger, who worked for Royal Mail for four years, admitted three charges of delaying and damaging mail.
His solicitor Rachel Baldwin told the court the problem had ‘spiralled out of control’.
“He’s not a man driven by greed, he’s a man driven by desperation,” she said.
Miss Baldwin said Ballinger was in financial difficulties because he was paying off his mother’s loan and credit card debts, plus £80 a month in child maintenance.
She said he worked up to 93 hours a week, sometimes delivering mail by torchlight late into the night in a bid to get his round done.
Miss Baldwin said Ballinger couldn’t tell his bosses there was a problem because taking mail back to the sorting office was a disciplinary offence, and he feared he would be sacked.