But Peter Smith's panic-stricken decision to put bogus signatures on police statements was quickly discovered and cost him a glowing 25-year career.
Sacked from his job and suspended as a lay preacher by his church, his life was now a "shattered" ruin, Southwark Crown Court was told.
Judge David Elfer, QC, put 45-year-old Smith on three years' probation and warned him he was within a whisker of being jailed.
"I can tell you what I had on my blotter - nine months," he said.
Because Smith did not have the courage to ask for help with his heavy workload he had stooped to what amounted to a "very serious interference with justice", the judge told him.
"But, I think - just - I can imagine the loneliness of your position under pressure," the judge added, "and it is that which makes me say that this is not a case where I shall send you to prison."
Smith, of Waddon, Croydon, in Surrey, admitted four counts of forgery between December 1994 and April 1995.Reuse content