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Man killed himself after Post Office wrongly accused him of theft

Martin Griffiths, 59, took his own life in 2013 after he was falsely suspected of stealing money from a Post Office in Ellesmere Port

The family of a postmaster who killed himself after being wrongly accused of theft has demanded Post Office bosses are held accountable. 

Father-of-two Martin Griffiths, 59, took his own life in 2013 after he was falsely suspected of stealing money from a Post Office in Ellesmere Port, where he had worked for around 20 years. 

Mr Griffiths was one of hundreds of postmasters who were suspected of false accounting and theft, with some fired or wrongfully convicted, after amounts appeared to vanish from their tills. 

It later emerged that shortfalls in the accounts of local branches were the result of flaws in the Post Office’s IT system, Horizon.

The family of Mr Griffiths said he delved into his own savings and those of his parents to pay back around £60,000 he was wrongly suspected of taking from the branch.

The turmoil lasted for four years, between 2009 and 2013, and had a huge impact on the father-of-two’s physical and mental health, his family said.  

In 2013, Mr Griffiths parked his car on the A41 in Ellesmere Port after leaving a note for his loved ones and took his own life.

Today, his family have called for a stricter line of review from the Government and asked for a judge-led enquiry to get to the bottom of the injustices behind the scandal.

Mr Griffiths’ nephew Samuel Caveen said: ‘The weeks after Martin died were the worst weeks of our lives. When my uncle passed away, I got a phone call in the middle of the night from his wife, Gina.

‘That was horrendous. Looking back, his death seems to have stolen away such precious time. He should be a proud grandfather now as his son had a child last year and his daughter is expecting, but he’s not been here to see that.

‘I feel like it’s a significant portion of my family taken away from me. Family gatherings were and have been curtailed.

‘My uncle had his life and his reputation torn apart by the Post Office and his mental health was completely destroyed. It’s an absolute tragedy.’

Mr Griffiths was one of hundreds of postmasters who were suspected of false accounting and theft after amounts appeared to vanish from their tills (stock image)

Mr Griffiths was one of hundreds of postmasters who were suspected of false accounting and theft after amounts appeared to vanish from their tills (stock image)

Mr Caveen, 29, formerly of Eastham, Wirral, added: ‘People want a formal enquiry and a more robust compensation package. But most importantly, nobody has been held accountable at the Post Office.’     

Mr Griffiths worked at Hope Farm Road post office in Ellesmere Port, and had spent about two decades with the company, with 18 of those as a sub-postmaster.

Among his responsibilities were the tills and book-keeping, but at one point financial shortfalls emerged, and suspicion fell on sub-postmasters across the country.

It later emerged the shortfalls were due to a fundamental problem with the Post Office’s computer system, Horizon.  

Last year, the Post Office paid out a £57.75 million settlement after more than 550 claimants brought group legal action over the system, which was found to contain software flaws that caused financial shortfalls in the sub-postmasters’ branch accounts over a number of years. 

It was revealed earlier this month that bosses at the Post Office were told Horizon could be to blame in 2011. 

Some prosecutions had already taken place but managers still went ahead with up to 98 further cases between 2011 and 2015. 

A total of 960 convictions linked to the scandal are being reviewed in what has been dubbed the biggest miscarriage of justice in UK history.   

Mr Griffiths was never held criminally liable, but bosses still launched a process to remove him from his post, according to his family.

It had a huge effect on his pride, his loved ones said, and he kept what was happening from them for a long period of time.  

Mr Caveen, who has defended his uncle for many years, added: ‘Pregnant women have gone to prison, parents have missed the birth of their children, people have died, reputations and lives ruined by what seems to be the venal and corrupt practices and excesses of the Post Office.

‘The Horizon scandal has been described by some leading figures as the worst miscarriage of justice in British history.

‘People have gone 20 years so a few more years so we can get an independent judge-led enquiry is something people involved will be prepared to accept.

‘The current government review will not deliver justice and accountability.’

It later emerged that shortfalls in the accounts of local branches were the result of flaws in the Post Office’s IT system, Horizon (stock image)

 It later emerged that shortfalls in the accounts of local branches were the result of flaws in the Post Office’s IT system, Horizon (stock image)

A Post Office spokesman said: ‘We have taken determined action to address past events and we are working to reform the Post Office, to forge an open and transparent relationship with the thousands of current postmasters providing customers with vital services in the UK’s communities.

‘We agreed a comprehensive resolution last year with claimants in group civil litigation, following successful independent mediation. We sincerely apologise to those affected.

‘We subsequently set up the Historical Shortfall Scheme to provide redress for other postmasters who may want to make claims.

‘We have made wide-reaching improvements in the support we provide, from initial recruitment and training, through to the support for daily transaction accounting. 

‘These are being set out for every postmaster, detailing responsibilities and commitments which support them to build thriving businesses.’ 

Liverpool Riverside MP Kim Johnson has spoken on the issue in Parliament, and said: ‘Many innocent sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses have been bankrupted, imprisoned and wrongly accused of theft due to the Post Office’s heavy-handed approach, when accountancy issues with Horizon reported financial irregularities.

‘What new procedures have the Post Office introduced to protect sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses as a consequence of this scandal?

‘What protections has the Post Office put in place to ensure accountancy software is fit for purpose?

‘What action will be taken against those in positions of leadership in the Post Office during the scandal?

Paul Scully, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy replied: ‘The fact is that we have now got the Post Office to accept its wrong position and the fact that the Horizon software could make mistakes – things were being changed there.

‘That is why it is important to get that acknowledgement. It is also important that we continue to build trust with sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses in their relationship with the Post Office.

‘That is why every time I speak to the chief executive, I make sure that that is at the top of our agenda.’  

  • Anyone seeking help can call Samaritans free on 116 123 or visit Samaritans.org 

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