Post Office scandal: Manager wrongly convicted of stealing died before court cleared his name

ITV News Correspondent John Ray speaks to the wife of a former Post Office manager who died before his conviction was quashed and another Post Office mistress who lost her house and her business

Words by ITV News Social Affairs Producer Reshma Rumsey and Correspondent John Ray

More than a decade since her family’s life was torn apart, Marion Holmes is still angry.

"I will never forgive the Post Office and I will never forget," she says.

"They ruined our lives."

Marion’s husband Peter was a victim of what has been called Britain’s biggest miscarriage of justice.

He was a Post Office manager wrongly convicted of stealing £46,000 from his own branch. The former police officer's reputation and health were broken.

"He lost the will to live," says Marion.

Peter died long before the Court of Appeal could quash his conviction last April .

For Marion and many others wrongly convicted, it was a bitter-sweet victory. And more than six months on, her compensation claim is bogged down in bureaucracy.

“There are hundreds and hundreds of us who have been ruined financially and morally,’’ she says.

Peter and Marion Holmes. Credit: Marion Holmes

In 1999, the Post Office introduced a new accounting system to manage 11,000 branches nationwide.

Despite repeated concerns that Horizon, the faulty IT system, generated false and unreliable accounts for several years, the Post Office then used the information to prosecute workers for theft, fraud and false accounting.

More than 700 were taken to court. Many went to prison, contemplated suicide, lost their livelihoods, homes, good names and faced financial ruin.

In December 2019, campaigners finally won the legal battle to have their cases re-examined and to date, more than 70 convictions have been overturned – with more expected to follow.

Former Post Office worker Harjinder Butoy (left) outside the Royal Courts of Justice after having his conviction overturned in April 2021. Credit: Luciana Guerra/PA

An inquiry headed by Sir Wyn Williams is also underway but despite the vindication, many of the victims and their families complain they're still being forced to suffer the stress and trauma of their ordeals with long delays and uncertainty surrounding compensation payouts.

David Enright, the lawyer representing more than 150 claimants told ITV News many fear they will never see a penny.

He said: "People are elderly, people are sick, people are dying. People will not live long enough, not just to receive compensation, but repayment for the lives that were taken from them by the Post Office."

Former Post Office manager Sue Palmer lost her home and business due to the scandal, but does not qualify for compensation

Sue Palmer is another accused of stealing from her own Post Office branch. She won her case but lost almost everything else.

"I lost my home, I lost my business," she told ITV News.

"I feel like my stomach’s been ripped out. Not only am I fighting what happened then, I’m still fighting now."

But because she was never convicted, she doesn’t qualify for compensation.

"I would have been better off if I’d have pleaded guilty. It just hurts every time I mention it,' she says.

The Post Office said it is "extremely sorry" for historic failures and that it had taken "determined action to ensure there is adequate redress".

Compensation, it said, was a "priority" and it insists it is trying to "expedite" interim awards of up to £100,000.

But Marion, approaching 80, wonders how long she has to live with the nightmare.

"You begin to wonder whether I’ll ever see the end of it," she says.