THEY should be one of the most trusted pillars of a community - a lifeline service for hundreds of residents. 

For women in the south side of Glasgow, however, a man who breached the position of trust afforded to the local postie has caused far reaching distress.

Irfan William, from Newton Mearns, worked as a postman in the south side for around nine years with the densely populated area giving him access to hundreds of women on his rounds.

William pleaded guilty at Glasgow Sheriff Court last month to three charges of stalking and one of sexual assault, all occurring between January 2015 and March 2022 and involving four women.

However, The Herald has spoken to several female residents of the Govanhill area of the city who claim to have been harassed and pestered by William but who didn't report the situation to the Royal Mail or police because they felt their experience was too minor.

One woman who spoke to The Herald said William was her postman around nine years ago when she lived in her property with her then-boyfriend.

He left such an uncomfortable impression on her that she wrote about his visits on social media. 

The woman, who is in her 40s, said she rarely saw William as she was at work full time but would occasionally encounter him at the weekends. 

After a time he stopped delivering to her building but in November 2021 turned up at the door with a parcel for her.

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She said: "The first time he appeared he was asking me about [my ex partner] and whether I had broken up with him.

"William then mentioned that my ex was grumpy and implied he was scared of him. 

"It was very uncomfortable and he was lingering at the door and only moved on when my regular postman came up the close with letters.

"The creepy thing was that he could remember my partner from so many years earlier.

"The next day he came back again with another parcel and described himself as my “special postman” and was asking me if I live here on my own now and plan to stay living here. 

"I felt really uncomfortable, enough to speak about it to a number of friends and post about it on Facebook but I regret not complaining. 

"It's difficult when someone comes to your door every day and because of the nature of their job they know a lot about you, your movements, your relationships, the things you buy or get in the post."

The woman said that other Royal Mail postal staff who have worked at her building have been friendly and she has built a good rapport with several of them.

While the interaction with William felt very different, the woman, as did others The Herald spoke to, said she felt the incidents were too minor to complain about. 

She added: "You try to have a rapport of some kind but this felt like it was crossing a line and the conversation was intrusive.

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"The types of things he asked weren’t relevant to his job.

"He never came back so I presumed he was just filling in for someone and I didn’t take a complaint any further. 

"Since finding out what has happened to others I feel like i probably should have but who would take 'a nagging feeling' seriously when on the surface it looks like very little happened?"

William was reported to Royal Mail twice but the first complaint was made about an incident that occurred while he was off duty and, although internal disciplinary procedures were followed, he remained in post.

A second incident was reported in March last year and, as it was of a sexual nature, the 49-year-old was suspended before later being sacked.

The complaint was passed to Police Scotland and more women came forward with complaints about him. 

Sheriff Philip Mackinnon deferred sentencing for reports and William was bailed. 

The court heard how one of William's victims allowed him in to her home when he asked for a cigarette and he began asking personal questions about her sex life and marital status.

When she walked towards the front door William grabbed her shoulders from behind and hugged her, grabbing her cheek and forcefully kissing her.

Another woman said she got an ex-partner to come round and answer the door in order to avoid William. 

Of the four women involved in the court case, three have moved and one installed CCTV at her property to make herself feel safer.

One of those women, Sarah, not her real name, was living with her partner when William first began delivering her post to her.

Around the same time, her partner began being abusive and was also in trouble at work over serious issues that would see him suspended then sacked.

William knew her partner and, when the couple separated, knew that Sarah was now living alone and began to question her about what had happened.

She said: "They say creeps hang around creeps.

"William knew bad stuff was going on at [my ex partner's work] and knew that he had moved out and I was on my own.

"So he was asking me questions when [my ex] got suspended about what was going on with that but also more personal questions such as 'why did you split up?' 

"That's the bit I found really disturbing.

"He knew personal information about me, knew I was living on my own and that there wasn't a man about any more. 

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"So it started as all these questions - personal questions about me, personal questions about [my ex], personal questions about my relationship, personal questions about was I with anybody else, personal questions about what the case was about.

"All of that was making me so uncomfortable."

Sarah described how William would bring a letter that could easily fit through the letterbox but knock the door rather than post it through.

She would watch through the peephole as he failed to try the flat next door and instead come straight to her flat to ask her to take in parcels for her neighbour.

Eventually she stopped opening the door because his behaviour made her so uncomfortable.

Sarah, in her 30s, would often go and work in a nearby cafe and William began appearing there, watching her with her laptop and trying to engage her in conversation.

She added: "If he saw me from outside he would come in, sit down, stare at me, try to make conversation and I would tell him I was working and make really clear that I didn't want to talk to him.

"That kind of escalated to him hanging about. He knew what days I tended to go there, what times I would go there and he would be hanging about to see if I would go in and then follow me in.

"I got to the point where I thought he's bothering me at home, when I'm out and about and when I'm working, I can't do this."

At the same time, Sarah's ex-partner began showing up at the property in the early hours to harass her. She would get just a few hours sleep before William would then show up.

The pressure became too much and she decided it would be easier to move home. 

Coincidentally, Sarah had a mutual friend with another woman who had been harassed by William and who had reported him to the Royal Mail and to police. 

Sarah decided she too would go to the police and was asked to give evidence at the court hearing against him. 

She said: "William was targetting people to the last gasp. Even after he was suspended he got a job as a courier and so was still delivering to people's doors."

From speaking to other women involved in the court case, Sarah learned that another woman had reported William to Royal Mail but staff had decided not to take action against him.

She added: "How many women will have separated from someone and been in the position I was in?

"I'm happy with how Royal Mail dealt with it in the end but it took for this poor girl to be attacked for something to be properly done about it.

"I didn't report it at the time because I had enough on my plate so it was easier to move. And that was not something I should have had to do." 

For the women involved, the case raises the question: how could this have been allowed to happen?

Royal Mail said the company took "immediate action" to suspend William "as soon as" reports about his conduct were made and he was then dismissed for gross misconduct. 

But after the initial complaint made against him he was allowed to continue working because the incident had happened off shift.

Another woman The Herald spoke to said she too had contrived to have a man open the door to William in an attempt to divert him.

She said: "I asked my brother to come round and be there when Irfan was delivering the mail. He actually had to come over twice because the first time, of course, Irfan wasn't on that day.

"I am a card carrying feminist and a grown woman and here I am asking a man to come and protect me. It was galling.

"But I have a lot of sympathy for Royal Mail - I'm not sure what they could have done initially. It is just a real shame - and I include myself here - that more women didn't report him.

"I don't want to victim blame because woman are constantly told to ignore their instincts and that they are over-reacting and that they should be flattered by the attention.

"In this case, those negative stereotypes have done nothing but ensure a perpetrator has been protected and women have thought they were being too sensitive."  

Asked whether new policies or procedures would be brought into force in light of Williams' behaviour, a Royal Mail spokesperson did not comment but did say the "vast majority" of postmen and postwomen are "trustworthy and hard-working people."

He added: "We always offer every assistance to police in their investigations to ensure that the tiny minority who abuse their position of trust are prosecuted by the relevant authorities."