Vendetta by Post Office bosses cost me £120,000… AFTER they dropped case: Former worker recalls how she was hounded for cash after being wrongly accused in IT system scandal
- Susan Hazzleton, 68, owned a Post Office in Little Waltham, Chelmsford, Essex
- Shortfalls in accounts began ‘snowballing’ after she adopted Horizon IT system
- Post Office dropped her case at the last minute but still pursued her for cash
A mother-of-three broke down as she told the inquiry yesterday how she lost £120,000 despite the Post Office admitting it did not have enough evidence to take her to trial.
The company’s investigators allowed the threat of a court trial to hang over Susan Hazzleton, 68, who ran a branch in Little Waltham, a village near Chelmsford, Essex, for 18 months after shortfalls started appearing in 2000.
The postmistress was ‘sick’ with worry and even filled up the freezer with healthy meals so that her children would be cared for if she went to jail.
But, on the eve of her Crown Court trial, the Post Office dropped the case citing a lack of evidence – but it continued to pursue her for cash.
Her appearance in the local papers made her ‘the talk of the village’ and so few people came to her neighbouring general store that she was forced to close.
Her children were bullied with their peers telling them ‘your mum’s a liar, your mum’s a thief’.
She paid back £4,300 but estimates her losses are in excess of £120,000 as her business never reopened.
Post Office investigators allowed the threat of a court trial to hang over Susan Hazzleton (pictured), 68, who ran a branch in Little Waltham, a village near Chelmsford, Essex, for 18 months after shortfalls started appearing in 2000
She said: ‘I was frightened that, even though I’d done nothing wrong, I was going to end up in prison.
‘It was like someone had pulled a rug from under you. Suddenly you’ve got no income.
‘It’s gnawed away at me for 21 years, and at my peace of mind, my trust in organisations.
‘It’s made me wonder what the legal system is like in this country.’
She has received £15,000 in damages so far and expects this to increase substantially following a claim for malicious prosecution.
Mrs Hazzleton said Post Office workers told her that no-one else was having computer issues like she claimed she was.
She said that the shortfalls in her accounts began to ‘snowball’ into the thousands in 2000 after she began using the Horizon system.
She said she repeatedly rang the helpline but got little assistance.
Ms Hazzleton (pictured) broke down while giving evidence to the inquiry, recalling how Post Office workers told her that no-one else was having computer issues like she claimed she was
Scott Darlington, who is a former subpostmaster, gives evidence at inquiry
Mohammed Amir, who is a former subpostmaster, gives evidence Thursday at Post Office Horizon scandal inquiry
Mrs Hazzleton told the inquiry tearfully: ‘Obviously I was very naive. I had been told I was the only one who had that problem.’
Later, Mrs Hazzleton said it was helpline workers and the area manager who had told her that nobody else was experiencing computer issues.
She said she then became aware from a magazine article that another Post Office worker had found a discrepancy of £20,000 in their accounts.
‘That was a bit comforting in a way, to know that I’m not an idiot, it’s not just me going through this,’ she said.
The inquiry, which is expected to run for the rest of the year, is looking into whether the Post Office knew about faults in the IT system and will also ask how staff were made to take the blame.
On Wednesday, a group of cross-party MPs called on the Government to fully compensate all victims.
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