Ex-Post Office worker says she lost her 'home, livelihood and health' due to Horizon scandal

  • Video report by ITV Wales reporter Richard Morgan

An ex-post office worker from Newport says she's "lost her home, business and health" after a scandal that led to subpostmasters being suspended and some being prosecuted and jailed.

Sarah Osolinski, who ran the Gaer Park Post Office in Newport for 14 years estimates she spent more than £25,000 to cover the constant shortfalls that were triggered by a flawed computer system.

Sarah gave evidence to the inquiry into the failings of the Post Office's Horizon IT system.

The inquiry session in Cardiff on 3rd March heard that Mrs Osolinski paid out between £90 and £1,000 almost every week for two years to make up the shortfalls as she lived under constant fear that the Post Office would close down her branch.

Sarah told the inquiry she felt "badgered and pummelled" by Post Office bosses, who accused her of false accounting. Credit: PA

Sarah told the inquiry she felt "badgered and pummelled" by Post Office bosses, who accused her of false accounting.

The 65-year old said the whole affair is "disgraceful" and "this whole experience has been a living nightmare."

'A living nightmare'

She said: "Shame on them, shame for what they've put us through."

"This whole experience has been a living nightmare.

"I want to know why, when they knew the system wasn't fit for purpose when they installed it, they still went ahead and installed it.

"And I want proper compensation I want to be able to live properly."

Mrs Osolinski was suspended and then had her Post Office contract terminated in March 2010.

Her losses included £89,000 for the leasehold of the premises, quarterly rent, approximately £7,500 in stock, and she also paid for signage.

She had dreamed of being a subpostmaster until retirement, but after having that taken away her family retail business took a hit.

Walking away from the business and selling the family home was the only option left to help pay debts.

She now lives in a housing association bungalow and split up from her husband for a period due to the stress of everything that had happened.

Former Post Office workers pictured outside the Royal Courts of Justice after their convictions were overturned in April 2021 Credit: PA

Mrs Osolinski was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a condition that causes widespread pain and extreme tiredness.

In the middle of the fraud allegations, her symptoms "just went into freefall".

She said she watched the Post Office and government "prevaricate and throw money at preventing us from achieving justice" for 12 years.

"I know many of us have suffered for much longer," she said.

"No-one at the top of the Post Office has properly apologised or faced prosecution for the lies they have told.

"They have all received large bonuses when they moved on, whilst we were left to survive on benefits or low-paid jobs, our characters ruined and confidence crushed."

She added: "How long can the Post Office hide from the responsibility of paying proper compensation to us all?"

'No doubt about the human cost'

A Post Office spokesperson said: "The post office is sincerely sorry for the impact of the Horizon scandal on the lives of victims and their families and we are in no doubt about the human cost.

"The inquiries hearings enable many of those who were most deeply affected by the Post Office's past failings to voice their experiences and their testimonies must and will ensure all lessons are learnt so that such events can never happen again."