Post Office investigator says cleared sub-postmaster was guilty

Post Office investigator says cleared sub-postmaster was guilty
Raymond Grant has been giving evidence at the Post Office Inquiry

A former Post Office investigator has said he still believes a branch manager, whose conviction was overturned after his death, stole money from his Post Office.

Raymond Grant told the Horizon IT inquiry on Wednesday, that he considered William Quarm to be guilty.

Mr Quarm pleaded guilty in 2010 to embezzling money, to try to avoid going to prison.

He died in 2012, aged 69, before his conviction was quashed.

His widow, Anne, told the BBC she was “astonished” that Mr Grant would say this, and that Mr Grant being compelled to attend the inquiry “says it all about his attitude”.

Mrs Quarm previously told the BBC the threat of jail had been devastating. “The fear in his eyes – I’ll never forget it,” she said.

Mr Quarm ran a Post Office branch in North Uist, Scotland. After his conviction he was ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work.

Speaking to the public inquiry, which is tasked with finding out how the UK’s biggest miscarriage of justice took place, the ex-investigator eventually broke down in tears and apologised.

But earlier he told the inquiry he still believed Mr Quarm’s conviction had been correct.

The former sub-postmaster, Mr Quarm had raised concerns about the ATM at his branch and possible errors in an interview with Robert Daily, another Post Office investigator in 2008.

Mr Quarm also said he was waiting for a bank loan to make good the £40,277.76 shortage found by auditors at his branch.

Picture of William Quarm who ran a Post Office branch in North Uist, Scotland.

Mr Grant objected to the demands the inquiry was making on him, saying his “time was limited”. He had submitted a “minimum” witness statement to the inquiry, that was only a little over two pages long.

He blamed this on working “10 to 11-hour days” at a Christian shelter. He said he was particularly busy in December with that paid work, and moving house.

“I was going home, walking my dog and at the same time, the home where I was living, I was asked to vacate it by December 31,” he told the inquiry.

Mr Grant also complained he hadn’t been paid for the time he had spent preparing to give evidence to the inquiry, adding he had been made to conduct research “in my own personal time” and had “spent some time in my sick bed reading” while preparing to give evidence.

Counsel to the inquiry, Jason Beer KC, asked the former investigator: “When you made a witness statement, did you think that Mr Quarm continued to be guilty of the crime of embezzlement?”

Mr Grant replied: “Yes I did.”

There were at times long pauses between questions as Mr Grant’s answers came. When asked whether he still believed Mr Quarm was guilty he said: “Yes I do.”

The counsel to the inquiry went on: “Despite the verdict of the High Court of Judiciary in Scotland?

Mr Grant said: “Yes.”

Asked whether that remained his view, the former investigator said: “In my mind, I still think Mr Quarm had a role to play in the loss of the money.”

The Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh overturned Mr Quarm’s conviction last year.

The long-running inquiry into the Post Office scandal is looking at prosecutions brought against sub-postmasters across the UK.

Between 1999 and 2015, the Post Office prosecuted hundreds of sub-postmasters and mistresses after a faulty computer system called Horizon made it look like money was missing.

The government has announced a new law to “swiftly exonerate and compensate” all those wrongly convicted.

At the end of his appearance at the inquiry Mr Grant interrupted the session to give a statement, and appeared very emotional.

He said the Post Office had “deceived [him] and they have deceived an awful lot more people”, adding he was “humbly sorry”.

“I just hope that people do learn from this and are more honest in the future,” he told the inquiry.

Source: bbc.co.uk

By David Ryckman