A temporary postman hoarded so many pieces of mail at his home in Birmingham that there were too many to count - but the collection weighed almost a tonne and was estimated to contain nearly 46,000 items, a court heard yesterday.

Seventy sacks of post were found in the Ladywood home of Vinay Pattni (pictured) and another ten were discovered in the boot of his car by investigators.

Pattni (41), of Coplow Street, admitted charges of delaying the post and opening a quantity of mail between December 2004 and May 2005 and was sentenced to 250 hours community punishment.

Mary Loram, prosecuting at the city's Crown Court, said during the time of his employment he mainly worked on the eastern side of the city, although he was sent to other areas as well, including Handsworth and Kitts Green.

Suspicion fell on him following complaints about undelivered mail, including credit cards, passports and giro cheques, and when his car boot was searched investigators found ten sacks of mail which should have been delivered.

A search of his home led to the discovery of a further 70 and revealed that he had opened 13 items, including one piece of mail that contained a mobile phone.

Also found were passports, which could never be delivered because their packaging had been removed, as well as DVDs, books and cash tokens.

He said as a result he fell behind and began taking the bags home because he could not cope with the job.

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He admitted opening items out of curiosity but said he did not intend to do anything with any of the things he looked at.

In passing sentence, Miss Recorder Malcolm said: "Your actions will have caused trauma, upset and potentially considerable distress to members of the public."

But she said she had taken into account the remorse and shame he had shown for his actions.

Speaking after the case, a Royal Mail spokesman said that cases like the one involving Pattni were not regular occurrences.

"We are charged with the responsibility of looking after our customers' mail and that is a duty we take very seriously indeed, so cases like this are rare.

"We have 123,000 delivery staff and the vast majority are incredibly honest and give a very good service," he said.

"Obviously, we cannot in any way endorse the hoarding of our customers' mail and we do tell our staff if they have any problem in delivering mail, they should talk to their manager and there is no excuse."