A HUSBAND said he was thinking about suicide after the Post Office falsely accused him of pocketing £ 65,000. David Blakey, 67, went broke, unemployed, homeless and suffered a stroke after being convicted of one of Britain’s biggest legal errors.
He was one of 736 sub-postmasters sued because a faulty computer system incorrectly signaled the theft. The IT scandal saw David and his wife Gill, 78, who ran a modest business in Grimsby, lose everything. After a historic legal trial cleared their names yesterday, they called for a full public inquiry. David said, “I am an honest man. I never had a penny of the money I was accused of receiving, but for years I was left as an unemployed outcast with a stain on my name.
“I lost my good name and a job I loved. We lost our house, we went bankrupt, I started to suffer a stroke and undoubtedly the stress contributed.
“Heads need to roll over what has been done to as many families as ours.”
Between 2000 and 2014, the Post Office processed 736 subpostmasters and subpostmistresses at a rate of one per week, based on incorrect information signaled by the Horizon computer system.
Some of those accused of theft and false accounting were arrested, while others died during a 20-year fight for justice.
Yesterday, 39 of those who were unfairly prosecuted had their criminal convictions overturned.
The Court of Appeal absolved them of guilt in a decision that left the Post’s reputation in tatters. He now faces a compensation payment that can amount to hundreds of millions of pounds.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “It is clear that a terrible injustice has been done. It is very sad what happened. They suffered a terrible abortion and we have to take care of them.”
David and Gill took over the post office in September 1996, but were forced to leave in May 2004.
The auditors carried out an on-site inspection and even accused the innocent David – who hid the extent of his wife’s crisis – from being an adulterer and gambling addict.
He said: “Things started to go wrong right after the Horizon system was installed in 2000. In the second week we were unable to balance £ 10 or £ 20 and I put the money on myself, because I believed it would correct itself. cash.
“But then, as the weeks went by, it kept happening. And suddenly, over a period of a few weeks, the discrepancies started to widen – in one week it was £ 5,000. I couldn’t afford to put so much money inside.
“I worked as a mechanical engineer – a job I loved – and then I went to the post office and did the accounting – so I kept it hidden from Gill because she had severe asthma and any stress could trigger a serious attack.
“But each day I was forced to change the numbers on the computer to agree with the numbers it said, because otherwise, I wouldn’t let you open it the next day to negotiate.
“Suddenly, in just a few weeks, the snowball grew and suddenly there was a discrepancy of £ 65,000.”
David was convicted of false accounting and received a nine-month suspended sentence. The family lost his three-bedroom home and he suffered a stroke.
He said, “A member of my family has disowned me and still doesn’t speak to me. We lost everything. I was innocent. I became suicidal. I can’t forgive.”
The computer system, supplied by Fujitsu and installed by the Post Office, was introduced in 1999 to control transactions, accounting and inventory. But he falsely suggested that there were large cash deficits in hundreds of branches.
Lawyer Sam Stein QC, representing several sub-postmasters, told the court that the scandal made the Post Office “the least trusted brand in the country”.
The striking trial means that new civil cases can be brought forward by a malicious process.
Post Chief Executive Nick Read said, “The overturning of historical beliefs is a vital milestone in addressing the past completely and properly while I work to fix these errors as quickly as possible.”