‘The Post Office ruined my life’: Salford sub-postmaster tells of heart attack at 33 over false allegations
A sub-postmaster who owned three branches in Greater Manchester told the inquiry into the shockingly-flawed Horizon computer system: ‘Post Office ruined my life’.
Mohammed Amir spoke of how he suffered a heart attack aged 33 and was diagnosed with severe depression due to the allegations and threats made against him.
Shocking human impact hearings have been taking place at the Horizon public inquiry, with postmasters speaking about how they were accused of fraud and in some cases prosecuted.
Convictions in the scandal were quashed after it was proven that it was the computer system, not the postmasters, who were at fault.
What did Mr Amir tell the inquiry?
He said he had wanted to run the businesses until he retired and then pass them on to his children.
However, once the Horizon IT system had been introduced all three of his branches started to experience shortfalls on a regular basis.
There would be smaller ones of around £300 to £400 occurring around four times a year and a couple of larger, four-figure ones per branch each year, Mr Amir said.
He said he would use his own money to settle these issues, sometimes having to use his overdraft and on other occasions borrowing money from friends and family.
He said the total amount of money involved in the issues over his years in the Post Office across the three branches probably came to around £130,000.
Mr Amir said he suspected the Horizon system was at fault as he thought it extremely unlikely that all three branches would be hit by issues with staff illegally taking money out of them.
However, he said that when he raised this issue with the Post Office he was told Horizon could not make mistakes.
This was despite him sometimes testing the system by doing print-outs a few minutes apart and finding they came to different amounts even though there had been no transactions in between.
What effect did the issues have on him?
Mr Amir said the Post Office would audit his branches and when they found discrepancies he would be given a period to make up the shortfall.
He said the audits were “like the police raiding your home” and “very hostile”.
The pressure eventually became too much and his health began to deteriorate.
He resigned from his position at two of his branches and sold them while remaining sub-postmaster at the third one in name only, with his sister and paid employees keeping it running.
He suffered a heart attack aged 33 the evening after working on trying to find one of the discrepancies and suffered severe mental health problems, eventually being diagnosed with depression and put on medication.
He told the inquiry he stopped going to the gym and taking part in sporting activities which he enjoyed, completely lost his social life and ended up spending most of his time at home.
He said the accusations caused people to doubt his credibility and honesty and put him in a difficult position as he was well known as the subpostmaster in his local community.
He faced accusations of theft once it became known that money had been going missing from the post office.
Mr Amir told the inquiry how he would go through the paperwork over and over again, unable to find the missing money or explain how the situation had developed.
He said he cannot bear to go into the Post Office branch he still owns and said his wife and children had faced questions about the shortfalls, with his wife losing friends in the local area as a result.
What else did Mr Amir tell the inquiry?
Mr Amir said that when he initially went for training he did not feel it was helpful and spoke of how he was unable to receive assistance from the Horizon telephone hotline.
He was scathing in his summary of how he had been treated.
“I am very angry at the Post Office and the way they have treated me. The Post Office has ruined my life,” he said.
He told the inquiry he would never get his health fully restored and said the Post Office should apologise, acknowledge the faults with Horizon and adequately compensate those affected.
He said he had been part of a bid to get compensation but the amount was nowhere near enough for the harm he had been put through.