The horrific true-life stories behind Mr Bates vs The Post Office have horrified audiences this week.
Toby Jones plays former sub postmaster Alan Bates, who has spent over 20 years battling for justice for the 3,500 employees wrongly accused of financial losses by the Post Office.
Although Alan was never prosecuted because he refused to accept responsibility for missing funds that were later discovered to be overestimated by the Horizon computer system, hundreds of others were.
Because their contracts required them to pay any deficits, many business owners were forced to remortgage their houses or even go bankrupt in order to recover the perceived losses.
Four of these persons committed themselves over the years while seeking to clear their reputations in what has been dubbed the UK’s “biggest miscarriage of justice.”
Martin Griffiths, a father of two, committed suicide after being wrongly accused of stealing £60,000 from his Post Office store in Ellesmere Port.
Last year, his wife Gina claimed the BBC’s Panorama that the business ‘hounded and tormented’ him, despite accumulating evidence of computer system problems.
Martin, 59, had walked out in front of a bus in September 2013.
‘Martin hit rock bottom. He said goodbye on the Monday morning, I was going to work an hour later. It came on the radio that there had been an accident on the road we travelled on, the A41. I just knew it was Martin,’ she said.
She blamed the Post Office entirely for her husband’s death.
Colin Tierney and Clare Calbraith play the pair in the series.
Gina’s thoughts have been mirrored by the widow of Fiona McGowan, who died in 2009 at the age of 47.
She died in her sleep from an accidental antidepressant and alcohol overdose, leaving two kids, ages 12 and 14.
McGowan and her partner Phil Cowan were accused with falsifying financial records for £30,000 that went’missing’ from their Edinburgh branch.
The Post Office accusations had already been withdrawn before her death, unbeknownst to her – but she was never informed.
Phil, who now lives in Thailand, told The Sunday Post in 2021 that his partner ‘may well be still alive today if she had not been facing court for false accusations of theft and died before clearing her name’.
Following the Court of Appeal’s decision to overturn the convictions of 39 sub-postmasters, Phil welcomed the news, but added: ‘For Fiona, all of this comes much too late. For her, there can be no justice.’
Police discovered the body of Devon mailman Peter Huxham in July 2020, who died alone at home in a suspected suicide after serving an eight-month jail term for a £16,000 deficit.
Due to the charges, his 22-year marriage had crumbled, and he had been battling with alcoholism and mental health concerns.
Recording an open conclusion, assistant coroner Stephen Covell stated it was ‘unfortunately rather an unsatisfactory state of affairs that I cannot give any helpful conclusions as to the precise circumstances of Peter’s death’.
‘He lived alone and died some weeks previously, and as a result his body was badly decomposed, and it was not possible to give a cause of death. There were no suspicious circumstances,’ he added.
Julian Wilson’s widow, who died of cancer in 2016, said the allegations of illegal activity’massively’ led to his premature death at the age of 67.
Karen’s husband, who managed a post office in Astwood Bank, was fired in September 2008 after an audit revealed that over £27,000 was missing from the records.
He was accused with forgery and theft.
Karen said that he was compelled to enter a plea bargain in order to escape prison and was sentenced to community service as well as a confiscation order for the missing money.
Wilson was unable to find work after his sentence, the couple’s assets were blocked, and Karen ended up pawning her valuables, including her engagement ring, to make ends meet.
The second episode of the drama series also featured a horrifying incident of self-harm in which Saman Kaur (Krupa Pattani) attempted suicide.
Sam, a Midlands-based sub-postmistress, suffered a three-year court fight when her employer accused her of stealing. During that period, she got sad.
Sam receives electric shock therapy as part of her treatment in the episode.
She was finally exonerated of all charges.
In 2019, a High Court judge determined that software faults and vulnerabilities existed and that they might produce apparent inconsistencies or shortages in branch accounts or transactions.
The Post Office handed out a £57.75 million settlement the next year, but after legal expenses were deducted, the 550 claimants were left with only around £20,000 apiece.
In 2021 a Post Office spokesman said it had ‘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 sincerely apologise to those affected,’ it added.
Between 2000 and 2014, 700 Post Office employees were found guilty of crimes, with 236 sent to prison.
93 of these convictions have previously been reversed.
A public inquiry is also ongoing.
18 of the 555 allies who battled alongside Alan in the High Court have died without receiving full recompense or justice.
No current or previous Post Office manager has faced criminal charges.
Mr Bates vs The Post Office concludes tonight at 9pm on ITV1. It will be followed by Mr Bates vs the Post Office: The Real Story at 10.45pm, also on ITV1.
Source My Celebrity Life.