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‘Widow of postmaster who committed suicide denied compensation’

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POST OFFICE has denied compensation to the widow of a postmaster, who took his own life hours after Post Office investigators raided his branch, despite admitting that the audit resulted in his suicide. Government’s compensation advisory board is now calling for the case to be reopened.

The father of two Jayakanthan Sivasubramaniam, whose suicide has not previously been reported, is the fifth known postmaster to have taken his own life after getting caught up in the Horizon accounting scandal.

20 years on, his widow has been denied compensation, The Times stated in a report on Friday (5).

“My poor husband was not given the chance to prove his side, and took his own life,” his wife, who asked not to be named, said.

Post Office said in a letter to her, “The relevant contract was held by the company and not [the wife] and therefore the Horizon Shortfall Scheme (HSS) does not extend to her claim.”

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“The panel has no reason to doubt that the audit and what it uncovered had a profound impact on Mr Jayakanthan and resulted in him sadly taking his own life.”

Jayakanthan owned three convenience stores in southwest London before joining the Post Office. His branch in Putney came under investigation after the Post Office alleged that £179,000 went missing from the cash machine and the safe.

According to the account given to the MPs’ business committee by his widow, two Post Office investigators raided the store, took files and locked him out hours before he took his own life on March 4, 2005.

His wife, who had been at a family birthday party with their two young children, returned home to find his body in the attic of their home in New Malden.

She also claimed that her home was raided for documents, including bank statements, the day after his death and that the investigation continued afterwards, the report said. .

The Post Office continued to send letters to the widow chasing her for the “missing” money, according to her account. She was forced to take out bank loans, remortgage their £350,000 home, and sell a property abroad and £14,000 worth of jewellery to keep the family afloat. Her account was sent to the House of Commons business committee, in formal evidence, in 2020.

She submitted a claim to the HSS for compensation in August 2020, but almost four years on is still in dispute with the Post Office.

The panel that decides claims, which is independent according to the Post Office and government, was “sympathetic” to the widow “regarding the state of affairs that transpired after the audit and untimely death of Jayakanthan in March 2005”.

But it added, “While there is no doubt that what happened on those days resulted in severe financial consequences for the company’s financial affairs, and the affairs of Jayakanthan’s estate, in light of the panel’s conclusions that the discrepancies identified at the audit were not Horizon shortfalls, the panel has concluded that none of the above losses can be considered to have arisen as a result of Horizon shortfalls.”

Members of the government’s compensation advisory board has responded angrily, and called for her case to be reopened.

“This sounds like an absolutely terrible case,” Lord Arbuthnot, a Tory peer and longstanding postmaster campaigner, said. “We shall need to investigate it quickly and fully, and I have no doubt at all that ministers and the entire country will want to get fully to the bottom of this and to discover precisely what has happened so that full redress can be given.

“The existence of a company in these arrangements should have no effect whatsoever on the rights of sub-postmasters and their families.”

Kevan Jones, a Labour MP, who sits on the government’s compensation advisory board, said the “appalling” case revealed a “total lack of compassion” from the Post Office, and the independent panel which rules on HSS payouts, and demanded the case be reopened.

A Post Office spokesman said: “We recognise that the claim made relates to truly tragic circumstances. Every single claim is assessed by an independent panel before it recommends an outcome, and that offer can rightly be disputed. The dispute process provides for free, independent mediation.”

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