‘It was horrendous’, says bankrupt victim of Post Office Horizon IT error

Auditor found discrepancy of £16,000 due to fault in Horizon computer system

A former postmistress in Co Tyrone has told of the distress she experienced after being accused of taking money from a post office when in fact it was a computer error.

Deirdre Connelly was one of 555 sub post masters across the UK who successfully took a case against the Post Office because of the accusations and is now the subject of a statutory public inquiry.

Ms Connelly told RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show that she and her husband lost their business as a result of the accusations.

Nine years after she was suspended from operating a sub post office in her shop close to the Donegal border, Ms Connelly was finally cleared of the charge in 2019. However, the £55.75 million (€66.805 million) award to the 555 litigants was eaten up by legal fees, which left only £11 million among the 555. Ms Connelly received £20,000 and then had to pay almost 50 per cent as she was bankrupt.



Ms Connelly and her husband had agreed to run a sub post office from their shop in 2006, and in 2009 took on the task of operating outreach sites, taking money to other post offices a few days a week.

The Horizon computer system which was eventually found to have been at fault, had always been in the post office, she said. There had been small discrepancies all along which she attributed to accounting errors and always made up the shortfall herself. On a number of occasions she had contacted the Horizon helpline to point out the problems but there was no resolution.

One morning in June 2010, she arrived to find an auditor waiting for her. Within a short time he told her there was a discrepancy of £16,000 and that he would have to suspend her. “He took the keys and that was the end of me and the post office, all within 15 minutes. It was horrendous.”

Ms Connelly and her husband were asked to allow a sub post master in to run the post office and they did not know what the future held. She borrowed the £16,000 from both their families and she repeatedly asked for an investigation into where the money had gone.

After three or four months she received a letter saying there would be no criminal proceedings. “That’s when it really hit home. That was a fine line for me. I just thought there was a mistake somewhere. I paid the money back, gathered from family. I asked them to investigate where the mistake had been made and where the money went. I’m still waiting for that.”

The couple went bankrupt in 2013, “we couldn’t keep up with all the debts”. Later that year Ms Connelly developed epilepsy – “mentally it was awful,” she said.


Eventually it was Ms Connelly’s sister in law who alerted her to a report in a newspaper which made her realise the same thing had happened to many other sub post masters – over 700 in all – even though she had been told by the Post Office that she was the only one. She joined the Justice for Sub Post Masters Alliance where she and 554 others went to court “to prove that the system was flawed”.

The ordeal has taken its toll, she said. She did not leave the house and the issue remains “constantly in my head”. She said she was relieved that the statutory inquiry would now go ahead and that “somebody will be held to account”.

Ms Connelly said she was still very bitter. “I get very angry at how we’ve all been treated.” All the sub post masters had been “loyal workers” and “somebody should have noticed what was happening”.