Post Office scandal victims accuse Paula Vennells of making ‘PR apology’

Victims of the Post Office scandal have accused the company’s former boss Paula Vennells of making a “PR apology” to those affected.

Ms Vennells began her evidence to the Horizon IT Inquiry in central London on Wednesday by apologising to subpostmasters and their families.

She also twice broke down in tears as she answered questions from the inquiry.

The 45-year-old told the PA news agency: “The apology, I think, was quite well-rehearsed, the speech of the apology and also the response to the questions.

“The reason why I think the apology was more like a PR apology was because all these years she could have made an apology like that.

“Why did she have to wait until today to do that?”

Janet Skinner expressed sympathy over the position of the former chief executive on Wednesday, giving evidence to a room of people with “eyes full of hatred”.

Janet Skinner
Janet Skinner was jailed for false accounting (Aaron Chown/PA)

She told PA: “I’ll be honest, I felt quite emotional this morning.

“I actually felt emotional for her because she is up there and she has got all these eyes there that are just full of hatred towards her and that must be such an overwhelming, horrible, intense feeling.”

She said Ms Vennells “has brought it all on herself”, continuing: “This is her time on that stand to now put her side of the story out there.

“Everybody has chucked mud at her, it’s time for her to open up and be quite open and honest about who was at the forefront of it all.”

Lee Castleton said Ms Vennells will “never” shed as many tears as he has.

Mr Castleton, from Bridlington, East Yorkshire, was found to have a £25,000 shortfall at his branch in 2004. He was made bankrupt after he lost his legal battle with the Post Office.

Speaking about Ms Vennells’ evidence, he said: “She’s got a huge opportunity to get what she sees as the truth out there.

“I think it’s a huge stage for her. I think the paperwork is fantastic, to see what was being written at the time, it’s really, really important for us to see that.

“And what she remembers really is kind of a background for me, the actual verbal evidence is not really that important.”

Lee Castleton
Lee Castleton recalled the tears he had shed over the Horizon IT scandal (Yui Mok/PA)

“Not that I have no empathy for that because I do, I understand completely.

“I’d imagine a lot of it’s nerves too and doing her best. I think she’s got a need or want to do the right thing.”

Jess Kaur, 52, told PA: “I was just thinking to myself when she started crying that we were crying like that at the time.

“It was nice to see her tears, but at the same time she’s got a lot to answer for. She just needs to tell the truth.”

Ms Kaur was a subpostmistress in Walsall who was wrongly accused in 2009 of stealing £11,000.

Seema Misra outside Aldwych House
Seema Misra said there was still a cover-up (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

Ms Misra, who ran a post office in West Byfleet, Surrey, was jailed in 2010 after being accused of stealing £74,000. She was pregnant at the time.

She said: “It’s a cover-up and denial, it’s still a cover up, that’s what my take is.

“Was she emotional due to the scandal or the warnings she had been given before?

“They still don’t accept it, how on earth did authorities in high positions not know how the company works?”

Ms Vennells continues her evidence.

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