A heroic subpostmaster who fought off armed robbers FIVE TIMES only to be wrongly accused of stealing £85,000 died before Christmas so will never see justice, a campaigning North East MP has said.

Tom Brown, from Stanley, who won a bravery award for fending off gunmen during a string of terrifying raids at Post Offices during his 30-year career, said his life was ruined when he was charged with theft.

He was part of the group which launched legal action against the Post Office after hundreds of people were prosecuted over shortfalls caused by the faulty Horizon computer system.

North Durham Kevan Jones, who fought Mr Brown’s corner for 13 years, said: “Poor Tom died before Christmas. It is very sad.

“They took him to court but on the morning of the case they abandoned it and in  the meantime, he had gone bankrupt.”

Mr Brown, who was in his late 70s when he died, was charged with two offences of false accounting after an audit of his Post Office in North Kenton, Newcastle in 2008 concluded £85,000 was missing.

The father-of-one, who spent decades working for the Post Office in various locations across County Durham and Tyneside, was suspended.

In 2010, after struggling to pay the bills for the shop side of his business for over a year, Mr Brown was made bankrupt.

The Northern Echo: Tom Brown, left, received a certificate of valour from district manager Bruce McNiven in 1990Tom Brown, left, received a certificate of valour from district manager Bruce McNiven in 1990 (Image: Contributor)Get the latest news, sports, and entertainment delivered straight to your device with a subscription to The Northern Echo. Click here 

He had previously been awarded a Certificate of Valour by the Post Office after repeatedly being threatened with shotguns, having a handgun pushed against his head and a knife held to his throat in a series of armed raids.

In April 2017, after the case against him was dropped on the day of trial at Newcastle Crown Court, Mr Brown said: “I was accused of taking £85,000, but I said ‘don’t be stupid, there is something wrong with the computer’.

“The software they [the Post Office] had was not registering all the transactions, although it was giving people receipts.”

Mr Brown claimed he lost £500,000 overall after his remaining assets were seized and auctioned off.

The Northern Echo: How the case was reported in 2017 How the case was reported in 2017 (Image: Northern Echo)Speaking to the Northern Echo, Mr Brown said: “I want reimbursing for the money I have lost.

“But the most important thing is for them to admit there was something wrong with the computers.

“I just want an apology.”

The Northern Echo: Tom Brown Tom Brown (Image: Contributor)A public inquiry into the scandal – the most widespread miscarriage of justice in UK legal history – is ongoing with evidence from one Post Office investigator on Thursday denying claims he and others “behaved like Mafia gangsters” who were looking to collect ‘bounty with the threats and lies’ from subpostmasters.

Stephen Bradshaw, who has been employed at the Post Office since 1978, told the inquiry he was not ‘technically minded’ and was not equipped to know whether there were bugs or errors in the Horizon system.

Mr Brown gave evidence at the inquiry himself in February 2022 saying he felt ‘violated’ when his home was searched for the missing cash.

He recalled contacting the Post Office helpline but was repeatedly told ‘the transaction would correct itself’.

The Northern Echo: Tom Brown giving evidence at the Horizon inquiry Tom Brown giving evidence at the Horizon inquiry (Image: Contributor)Mr Brown told the inquiry he had nothing to hide.

He said: “I knew I had not taken the money but I had no idea they had the power to do this.

“I would like to find out who was responsible once and for all and to see someone take accountability for the wrongdoings of the Post Office.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced a new law to overturn unsound convictions against subpostmasters following a public outcry in response to the recent ITV programme - Mr Bates vs the Post Office – which dramatises their long fight for justice.

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The Northern Echo: North Durham MP Keven Jones North Durham MP Keven Jones (Image: Contributor)Kevan Jones, who raised Mr Brown’s case in Parliament over ten years ago and is on the Horizon Compensation Advisory Board, said: “Tom should have had a happy and thriving retirement.

“He had a bungalow so it should have been very pleasant but he went bankrupt and had to go and live with his son in Stanley.

“His family can still claim compensation but it is hard because Tom did not live to see his full compensation paid.

“That is the tragedy of it. He never saw justice.”