A former subpostmistress from County Durham, thought to be oldest victim of the Horizon scandal in the country, has blasted Post Office bosses for ‘destroying her life’ in a powerful personal video message.

Betty Brown, 91, ran the Annfield Plain branch, near Stanley, with her late husband, Oswall, during a successful 35-year career, but problems arose in her meticulous ledgers when the discredited IT system was installed in 2000.

Her profitable business, once seen as a beacon for the network, started losing £1,500 a week and Betty, a pillar of the community, was humiliatingly forced to hire a manager who also ‘made losses’ she became responsible for.

The grandmother-of-three, who lives in Medomsley, was told she was ‘too old’ to understand how the computer system worked and was hounded into retirement.

She was forced to sell the business for less than it was worth in 2003 having spent hard-earned savings trying to balance the books.

Betty estimates she has lost hundreds of thousands of pounds through the scandal and believes the stress drove her husband, an ex-military police sergeant who fought the Japanese in Burma during the Second World War, into an early grave the following year.

The Northern Echo: Betty with her late husband Oswall Betty with her late husband Oswall (Image: Contributor)Betty said she wanted to directly address the Post Office’s former chief executive Paula Vennells and senior manager Angela van den Bogerd.

She said: “You have destroyed every day of my retirement and every day that my husband survived for the 13 months.

“You destroyed his days as well.

“I would love you to feel the agony and hurt and pain you have given me and all the other subpostmasters.

“Just imagine, and I hope that now not just the community, but the whole world, feels, the same way about you both and, all of the liars that went up in that court and lied through their teeth.”

Senior Post Office managers said neither their staff nor Fujitsu could remotely access sub-postmasters' accounts, even though Post Office directors had been warned four years earlier that such remote access was possible.

Between 1999 and 2015, 700 people employed to run Post Office branches were prosecuted for offences such as theft, fraud and false accounting, with some going to prison and others taking their own lives.

The Northern Echo: Betty explains the impact the Horizon scandal had on herBetty explains the impact the Horizon scandal had on her (Image: Sarah Caldecott)The Northern Echo: Betty ran the Post Office in Annfield Plain Betty ran the Post Office in Annfield Plain (Image: Sarah Caldecott)Although she was never prosecuted, Betty was threatened with criminal action and said Post Office managers were bullying and intimidating.

She said her the kindness and decency of the hardworking community of Annfield Plain helped her cope.

After hearing a segment on the scandal on the news, Betty became one of the original 555 who joined campaigning subpostmaster Alan Bates in suing the Post Office for compensation at the High Court in 2019.

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Now Betty has said she would like to see Paula Vennells, who has handed back her CBE, swap her £2 million house and the fortune she was awarded in bonuses to help all of the other subpostmasters who lives have been ruined.

Betty, who may be asked to give evidence at the inquiry into the scandal, said she did not accept the apology offered by Ms Vennells or from Fujitsu Europe director Paul Patterson.

He spoke at the Business and Trade Committee on Tuesday, alongside Post Office boss Nick Read, and conceded there had been an ‘appalling miscarriage of justice’ suffered by postmasters.

He said: “We were involved from the very start. We did have bugs and errors in the system. And we did help the Post Office in their prosecutions of subpostmasters. For that we are truly sorry.”

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Mr Patterson, who has been in his current role since 2019 but has worked at the firm for more than a decade, said there was a ‘moral obligation for the company to contribute’ to compensation.

But Betty, who has praised the recent ITV drama Mr Bates Vs The Post Office as ‘spot on’, dismissed the ‘mealy-mouthed’ apology from the tech company.

She said: “I won’t accept his apology. It doesn't make one bit of difference. It is a whitewash.

"I feel it is despicable. It just adding insult to injury.”  

The Northern Echo: Betty Brown Betty Brown (Image: Sarah Caldecott)