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    Post Office launches probe to review role of ‘untouchable’ investigators

    Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images

    Post Office has hired investigators, including some ex-police, to investigate the role of the fraud squad, described as the “untouchables”, who interrogated and prosecuted hundreds of sub-postmasters during the Horizon scandal.

    A team led by Gary Brooks, a former head of major crime at Lancashire Constabulary, has begun interviewing some of those who allege they were bullied and intimidated by Post Office investigators, The Times reported on Saturday (24). It follows allegations about the conduct of the Post Office’s fraud investigation team, allegedly known as the “untouchables” because of the power they wielded.

    David Enright, a lawyer representing more than 150 postmasters at the public inquiry, confirmed that three of his clients had spoken to the team and others would soon. Neil Hudgell, who represents about 500 victims, said “upwards of ten” of his clients had been interviewed.

    The former detectives have been appointed by the Post Office to “review the quality and effectiveness” of the investigations, which ultimately saw more than 900 sub-postmasters and others wrongly prosecuted between 1999 and 2015.  The scandal and a long-running campaign by Alan Bates to secure justice for the wrongfully convicted was chronicled in the ITV drama series, Mr Bates vs The Post Office, which aired last month.

    The public inquiry into the Horizon scandal has heard claims the investigators “behaved like mafia gangsters” who were looking to collect “bounty with threats and lies” from sub-postmasters.

    Stephen Bradshaw, one of the fraud team who still works for the Post Office, appeared before the inquiry last month to deny the allegations. He was accused of bullying and threatening by several victims including former sub post mistress Shazia Sadiq whom he allegedly called derogatory words.

    Among those who have met Brooks’ team is Deirdre Connolly, who was wrongly accused of stealing £16,592 from her Post Office in Killeter, Co Tyrone. She has given the former detectives details of her 2010 interview with Bradshaw and Suzanne Winter, a fellow fraud investigator, who left the Post Office in 2010.

    Bradshaw, who is still employed by the Post Office, appeared before the public inquiry last month, where he denied that he and colleagues had behaved like “mafia gangsters”.

    Rita Threlfall, who was charged with false accounting and theft over a £35,000 shortfall at her branch, has also met detectives to discuss her experience with the fraud squad. She was interviewed under caution by Bradshaw and another investigator, Christopher Knight, who now works in the Post Office’s intelligence team.

    She told the public inquiry last year that her treatment at the hands of the “untouchables” had left her suffering from “crippling anxiety and depression”.

    The Post Office stated that a team has been recruited solely to review the “quality and effectiveness of a number of past investigations arising from the allegations which were made during the inquiry, to inform current and future practices”.

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