St Keverne’s wrongly accused sub-postmistress has said community support and importantly belief in her innocence is what kept her going through the dark days.
Speaking to the Packet this week Susan Knight, who at one stage faced prison after being charged with false accounting worth tens of thousands of pounds, said: “The village is brilliant. They supported me when I probably didn’t believe in myself.”
Susan admitted she “probably misjudged” the reaction of the village, fearing they would lose faith in her following the allegations – subsequently confirmed to be unfounded – but this was far from the case.
“The number of cards I got was just unreal. I’ve kept them all; they’re important to me,” she said.
Filled with messages of support – with kind words such as “This passage is behind you, the future is in front; we’re very proud of you and your dignity, self control and patience has shone through this time” – they were put quietly through her door, without fuss but speaking volumes.
“It was surprising,” she said. “I just wanted to get through on my own, but they didn’t want me to. I just love the village; it just engulfs you.”
She will also be eternally grateful to her family, who she said had “been through hell and back.” “They never gave up on me. They said, ‘We’re family and we stick together’,” remembered Susan.
She is one of a number of sub-postmasters around the country who have faced financial losses while using the Post Office’s accounting system Horizon.
Despite continuing to insist the system functioned “effectively”, the Post Office has since launched a review of all prosecutions brought as a result of Horizon and said a review did “raise questions about the training and support we have offered to some sub-postmasters.”
When money first started disappearing Susan said: “I didn’t believe it was happening. I thought I was going crackers.”
It soon became a nightmare that led to Susan spending her life savings plugging the gaps, before being forced to take out a loan. “I’ve always paid it thinking it would come back through a transaction error and it just never did. I just wanted to keep the post office open for the village,” she explained.
With figures spiralling and a £22,500 shortfall confirmed by auditors last November, Susan reached one of her lowest points when a court summons fell through her door. She had been charged with false accounting and faced a potential sentence of three years in jail if found guilty.
Then, in a miraculous twist, the Post Office announced as she stood in court that they would be offering no evidence against her, ending the case. Susan thanked her solicitor Russell Wood of Howell Hylton for his work. “He was the key to everything really,” she said.
She now has a 40-week deadline to hear the result of a compensation claim. Although initially appearing a long wait, in comparison to the ten-year battle other sub-postmasters in the country have faced it is a welcome focal point.
Susan and husband Nigel are being supported by the Justice for Sub-Postmasters Alliance, which was set up by another sub-poster who has faced a similar battle.
She is full of praise for the alliance, saying: “If it wasn’t for them I know I wouldn’t have got the result.”
The JFSA and the Post Office has set up a working party to allow sub-postmasters in this position to apply for compensation. Susan said: “I’m glad the Post Office are now seeming to do something about it and setting up this scheme. It’s an excellent step forward.”
Despite all that has happened, Susan still says she is “proud” to have worked for the Post Office for the last 32 years.
The post office is continuing to operate in St Keverne, together with the outreach office based in Brenda’s in Coverack, where Susan said owner Angie Richards, who took over from her late mother who the store is named after, had been “brilliant.”