This is part three of what I am currently calling the Pete Murray trilogy. It takes us up to 30 Jan 2019.
Pete is Subpostmaster of Grove Road Post Office in Wallasey since 2013 and Hope Farm Road in Great Sutton since 2014. He was suspended in November 2018 after a £35,000 cash discrepancy was found at Hope Farm Road.
Hope Farm Road's previous incumbent sadly killed himself after being hounded by the Post Office for inexplicable discrepancies which kept appearing at his branch.
Part one of Pete's story was written in Dec 2018 ("The Post Office claim I owe them £35,000, despite never showing or telling me what I have done wrong.")
Part two was written on 29 January 2019 ("What kind of games are you playing with human beings' lives?"). It is an email sent by Pete in desperation. Not just to Mr Williams, but to John Breeden*, the Head of Agency Contracts Deployment (Paul Williams' boss) and the then-Chief Executive of the Post Office, Paula Vennells.
Neither Mr Williams or Mr Breeden troubled themselves to reply, but Pete did get a response from Mrs Vennells' office, the very next day. It read:
"Dear Mr Murray,
Thank you for your email of 29 January to Paula Vennells, Chief Executive, Post Office Limited. I have been asked to reply on Ms Vennells’ behalf.
The issues you have raised are currently receiving our attention and we will be back in touch once those enquiries are completed.
Office of the Group Chief Executive"
At last! Something to cling onto. Pete responds immediately:
Thank you for your reply. I should be grateful, since it is more than I have ever had from Paul Williams by way of reply in the last 4+ years. I wonder though, how long is this going to take to reach a conclusion? It is grossly unfair, and is affecting my health and family life, not to mention I have landlords to pay rent for two currently closed Post offices, a mortgage and bills to pay for my home, and a wife and three children to feed.
This is surely not a way to find answers for problems in Horizon, after I have come to Post Office to seek help with these discrepancies, been ignored time and again by EVERY department that I have tried to contact in order to try to find the source of the problems, and as a result have been suspended and basically treated like Post Office Ltd believes that I am in some way a criminal.
For example, are you actually aware that I have had letters from the FORMER Agents' Accounting Team, and DAC Beechcroft Solicitors (headed 'Post Office Ltd vs Peter James Murray')? These came BEFORE I even got to have the meeting with Mr Williams, four weeks ago. Furthermore, I am absolutely astounded that a contract manager is allowed to take a holiday when he has several branches closed and the sub-postmasters of those branches not being paid?
This is no way to run a business, and I truly believe that I have tried every possible way to co-operate with Post Office Ltd to get answers to these issues, which, even Mr Williams said in the meeting - have only happened in one of my offices, not both - and it should also be brought to your attention that this is the very same office in which the sub-postmaster took his own life about 6 years ago, after Post Office chased him for similar mystery discrepancies.
I have already had a national newspaper making enquiries for a story - they are all too aware of the former postmaster's suicide - and the longer POL drags out this surely illegal(?) suspension, the more tempted I am feeling towards blowing the whole thing wide open and sharing the truth of this bully-boy method of management. I didn't invest tens of thousands of pounds into a business to be suspended by someone who has shown zero interest in day to day operations ever. I thought I was buying a Post Office to work WITH Post Office Ltd, but your line managers are very clearly operating in a 'them and us' mode, and treat Postmasters like absolute dirt, quite frankly.
The very fact that I have not taken a single penny from Post Office, and the fact that I have asked for help to sort it out, should have alerted Post Office Ltd to answer my cries for help and to co-operate, rather than to completely ignore all contact and demand when I am going to pay it back?
The fact that Mr Williams said some of them missing figures had been spotted on their search in Horizon would indicate, I believe, that there are entry errors, or there are data losses down the phone line, this sort of thing, which would actually indicate that the figure that Horizon is looking for is wrong, and that in turn, would actually mean that there isn't actually missing cash, and certainly not anything near the numbers that POL are demanding back from me, even if there were.
You may be aware that Wirral Conservatives, Angela Eagle, MP for Wallasey, and Justin Madders, MP for Ellesmere Port as well as well over 1000 members of the public who have signed a petition are all aware that this - now 3 month - extended closure of two very important community post offices is a completely unfair and immoral way of dealing with an administration problem.
I have made sure to tell anyone who asks that this is a problem clearly caused by Horizon, but that Post Office Ltd see fit and well to treat me like this, pending an 'investigation' which appears not to be taking place.
I would appreciate your most urgent action to re-open my offices, please, since Mr Williams doesn't seem to be remotely concerned with the urgent need to reopen them - otherwise, he would maybe have done something about it before going on holiday - something I can only dream of, due to the dire situation in which I have been put by him.
Thank you, and kind regards,
Did Mr Williams ever get in touch? Has Pete been able to reopen his branches? Are the Post Office still continuing legal action against him? Is this any way to run a business?
Find out in Part 4. Coming soon.
You can read part 1 of Pete's story here: "The Post Office claim I owe them £35,000, despite never showing or telling me what I have done wrong."
You can read part 2 of Pete's story here: "What kind of games are you playing with human beings' lives?"
The Post Office tell me they do not comment on individual cases.
* Just as an aside, but also as a further insight into Post Office management culture, John Breeden was a witness at the common issues trial at the High Court. His approach was found by the judge to be "PR-driven". The judge added Mr Breeden's evidence "was presented in terms obviously designed to put the best possible gloss for the Post Office on matters, and some of his statements simply did not stand scrutiny."
If you can, please help keep this crowdfunded public-interest journalism project going by chucking a few quid in the tip jar below. Contributors who give £20 or more will start receiving regular "secret" emails which have all the info and gossip about this litigation as it makes its way through the courts.
If you want to find out a little bit more about the underlying story, click here.