An employee at Marks & Spencer sent a live tarantula to his manager as a joke, a court was told yesterday.

Mahlon Hector put the potentially deadly Mexican red-knee spider in a plastic container and asked a friend to give it to Susan Griffin.

She recoiled in horror when she found the spider, which has ?in fangs and a leg span of about 6in, sitting inside some tissue paper.

She has been left traumatised, has sleep problems and is now unable to open packages, Leicester magistrates heard.

Hector, who joined Marks & Spencer from school, sent the spider on his final day at the store in Fosse Park, Leciester, after six years with the company.

Richard Meadows, prosecuting, said: "The incident clearly had an effect on her. Other witnesses also felt very anxious."

Hector said Miss Griffin, 46, a line manager at the store, was "dour" and did not like him. Daniel Howe, defending, said: "He intended it as a joke and intended to be in the room when the package was opened. However, he was called away from the room for a meeting.

"He did not know how to retrieve the situation. Unfortunately, he did nothing."

Hector, from Beaumont Leys, Leicester, admitted a charge of conveying a threatening communication for the purpose of causing distress.

He was given a 12-month community order with 200 hours' unpaid work and told to pay ?200 in compensation for Miss Griffin's "emotional injury".

Barry Starbuck, the presiding magistrate, told him: "What you did was a very stupid thing. You were very close to going to prison."

Only Mexican red-knees bred in captivity can be sold in Britain, fetching up to ?70, as the breed is an endangered species.

The spider is not considered deadly but can kill anyone who suffers an allergic reaction to the venom in its fangs and hairs.

 

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