Home   Newmarket   News   Article

Subscribe Now

Former Newmarket Post Office worker Maureen Quarton died still haunted by Horizon claims

A former Newmarket postmistress carried the anguish of being falsely accused of stealing money from the Post Office to her grave, her husband has claimed.

Mother and grandmother Maureen Quarton was caught up in what has been called the most widespread miscarriage of justice in UK history after the Post Office rolled out a new computer accounting system called Horizon in all its branches in 1999.

Mrs Quarton, was never prosecuted over a shortfall of £2,000 which was found in her accounts at Newmarket Post Office but, said her widower Stephen, 84, the words of one of the auditors who told her he would 'chase her to the end of her life’ were always in the back of her mind.

Maureen Quarton pictured in 2007, two years after retiring from the Post Office
Maureen Quarton pictured in 2007, two years after retiring from the Post Office

For nearly 20 years, a glitch in the new software made it appear that money was missing from branch accounts throughout the country and more than 750 employees, all of whom had been told they were the only ones affected, were convicted of fraud and theft while the Post Office continued to insist there was no problem with Horizon.

Some went to prison, others were bankrupted as they tried to pay back the money demanded by the Post Office and many lost their homes and their marriages.

Others were vilified in their own communities and a number even pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of false accounting in order to avoid a prison sentence although they knew they were innocent of all the accusations against them.

Four former postmasters took their own lives as a result of what they and their families were going through.

"It was just before Maureen retired in 2005 after working at the Post Office for 17 years that they sent in the auditors at Newmarket and that was when this fellow told her that just because she was leaving, it didn't mean she was going to get away with it,” said Mr Quarton.

"She never forgot those words."

He believes his wife's health went downhill from that time until she died of cancer in April 2014 just three months after the couple's 50th wedding anniversary.

“She was only 70 and I am certain that the stress of being accused of something she hadn't done was a big factor in her death,” he said.

Now that the full extent of the Post Office scandal has been revealed following the recent ITV drama Mr Bates vs The Post Office there have been calls for the government to step in and exonerate all the men and women whose lives were blighted by the false allegations and the subsequent refusal of the Post Office to admit they had known there were problems with the system all along.

Mr Quarton believes that a formal apology should also be made to the families of postmasters and mistresses who had died before their names could be cleared.

“I know Maureen was not prosecuted but that didn't mean she wasn't affected for the last 10 years of her life and I think that should be acknowledged even if it is too little and too late,” he said.