Ex-Post Office boss accused of 'crocodile tears'

John Heath is wearing a green top and sitting on his sofa
Former sub-postmaster John Heath said Paula Vennells' apology "meant nothing" [BBC]

Former Post Office boss Paula Vennells has been accused of crying "crocodile tears" by a former sub-postmaster.

John Heath, who ran the Post Office in Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire, said his wife died without knowing who was stealing money from their branch.

Mr Heath said he had felt "pure anger" during the final week of evidence at the inquiry into the Horizon scandal and Ms Vennells' apology "means nothing".

The government has passed a new law quashing the convictions of sub-postmasters who were wrongly prosecuted.

Mr Heath bought the Post Office branch in Bradford-on-Avon with his wife Helen in 2003.

“Every penny we had went into that. It was going to be our retirement," he said.

When Mrs Heath died in 2011, Mr Heath said he tried to keep it running but said the Post Office "murdered him" and accused him of stealing £12,000.

"They stole my retirement," he said.

"I’ve had two strokes. My daughter had cancer. My son’s marriage was broken up by Post Office. It’s just killed everything."

Speaking about Ms Vennells' evidence to the inquiry, he said: "It's the crocodile tears and the corporate 'oh I’m very sorry for what has happened'.

"It means nothing. My wife went to her grave not knowing what was going on.

"It's ruined everything."

Tracey Merrit is sitting next to her daughter Lisa Porter
Tracey Merritt, right, pictured with her daughter Lisa Porter, said Post Office executives had "corporate amnesia" [BBC]

At the inquiry on Friday, Edward Henry KC grilled Ms Vennells on how much she knew about remote access to sub-postmasters' computers.

Ms Vennells denied having knowledge of it and said she did not think the board or the executive knew either.

Tracey Merritt, from Wincanton, Somerset, used to manage two Post Offices in Dorset.

She worked alongside her daughter Lisa Porter, who was also employed by the Post Office at Yetminster and Chetnole.

'Corporate amnesia'

Ms Merritt previously told the BBC she did not speak to her daughter for 16 months after she was threatened by Post Office investigators.

It had been a painful week, she said.

“The saying of 'oh, I can't remember' is beginning to annoy everybody," she said.

“To me they're getting away with using the same excuse: corporate amnesia.

"We weren't given that choice. That is really frustrating for me."

The passing of the Post Office Horizon System Offences Bill means, when it receives Royal Assent, all convictions will be quashed of people convicted of theft or false accounting between 1996 and 2018 while working in a Post Office using its flawed IT system.

Those who have their convictions overturned will be eligible for compensation from the Horizon Convictions Redress Scheme, which will be set up after the legislation is passed.

They will get an option to settle for compensation of £600,000 without the need to bring a formal claim.

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