Postmaster tells inquiry he thought about ending his life after theft claims

William David Graham from Sevenoaks appeared before the inquiry in London today

A postmaster who was wrongly convicted of false accounting described today how he lost his job and his friends, and at one point even thought about ending his life.

William David Graham said he was diagnosed with depression after an IT system installed by the Post Office falsely suggested cash shortfalls.

He was giving evidence at the Human Impact Public Inquiry that started in London on Monday, investigating the terrible effect the legal scandal has had.

Father of two Mr Graham, 53, who had worked his way up through the Post Office since 1992, and became manager of the Riverside branch in Sevenoaks, told the inquiry he used to be "the life and soul of the party".

But shortfalls of £65,000 were incorrectly identified in 2009 and he was charged with theft and falsifying accounts before taking a plea deal in 2011.

After paying back a £5,000 shortfall found in 2004 from his own pocket, Mr Graham then discovered a £50,000 shortfall, which he chose not to report.

"That was my whole salary for a year," he said. "That was how I put food on the table for my wife and children."

Auditors discovered £65,000 missing in the accounts in early 2009 and he admitted to inflating the figure to make the balance look right.

He was offered a plea deal to avoid a custodial sentence in 2011 and was handed a 32-week suspended prison sentence.

"When they said the 32 weeks in prison, the gap before they said it was suspended - I could hear my wife scream," Mr Graham said, growing visibly emotional as he described the hearing as "hell".

The inquiry into the Horizon IT system started this week

Following the ordeal, he said: "I went to the doctor and I was diagnosed with depression because I just felt worthless."

Mr Graham added: "I've got a wife and children at home. I couldn't provide for them."

On what he wants now, Mr Graham said: "I just want the Post Office to stand up and say, we knew there's a problem, this is when it started, this is what we didn't do, this is what we should have done and get justice for the people that have gone through this pain."

The inquiry, which is expected to run for the rest of this 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.

Jason Beer QC, counsel to the inquiry, said during his opening that the ordeal of those affected could be concluded as "the worst miscarriage of justice in recent British legal history"

What is the Post Office IT scandal?

The Horizon computer system was first installed into post offices back in 1999. However, by the early 2000s, money had started disappearing from accounts.

Over the next 15 years, around 900 postmasters and mistresses were charged with fraud and theft, with some jailed.

The problems were caused by the Horizon computer system which turned out to be flawed.

In December 2019, after a lengthy legal battle, Post Office paid out in a £58 million pound settlement.

The Post Office has previously said it 'sincerely apologises to postmasters affected by historical events' and has taken 'determined action to provide both redress for the past and fundamental reform for the future'.

> Post Office computer scandal: Interim compensation payouts for those wrongfully accused

> Former Hampshire sub-postmistress gives evidence for first time in Post Office IT scandal