A postman who hid 75,000 items of mail because he was too lazy to deliver them has been jailed for nine months after being convicted of theft.
John Hodson, 33, was caught after Royal Mail bosses placed tracking devices in his daily round.
Although he stole hundreds of pounds in cash and shopping vouchers to try to cover personal debts of £40,000, police found thousands of unopened letters and packages in his garden shed. These included 70,000 pieces of junk mail, which made up the vast majority of his hoard.
The father-of-two's employers became suspicious after 58 greeting cards went missing in the Prestwich area of Manchester.
Bolton Crown Court heard how one of the tracking devices used to catch the postman was placed inside a package containing a £30 shopping voucher – which Hodson was filmed on CCTV using to buy a pair of tracksuit bottoms two days later in a branch of JD Sports. Two packages containing other tracking devices were found in his car, while his wallet contained £140 in stolen cash. Inside his house, boxes from many more stolen pieces of mail were found in his kitchen bin.
Hodson, of Crumpsall, Manchester, who was told during his sentencing yesterday by Judge Peter Davies that he had behaved "like a magpie," admitted two charges of theft.
He said he began pilfering the contents of his mailbag in February last year and estimated the total value of his theft to be between £400 and £600. Hodson's barrister, Michael Cahill, told the court: "He was living beyond his means and everything spiralled out of control." Hodson also conceded that his behaviour had been "despicable".
Under the Postal Services Act, he was given an additional three-month sentence, to be served concurrently, for intentionally delaying post between November 2006 and April this year.
Judge Davies told the postman he was guilty of a "gross breach of trust". The Manchester Evening News reported that he told Hodson: "The public are entitled to expect a reliable, efficient and trustworthy post service. If postmen are believed to steal then that trust goes. Occasionally somebody comes along and lets the public down and that is what you did."
The Royal Mail said it had "a zero tolerance approach to any dishonesty and that stance is shared by the overwhelming majority of postmen and women, who are honest and hard-working and who do all they can to protect the mail and deliver it safely".
A spokesman added: "We will always seek to prosecute the tiny minority of people who abuse their position of trust."