Post Office claim cash from raid victims

A postmaster and his wife who were victims of an armed raid have been ordered by the Post Office to pay back almost all of the £11,000 stolen from their branch.

A postmaster and his wife who were victims of an armed raid have been ordered by the Post Office to pay back almost all of the £11,000 stolen from their branch.

Sheila Francis has suffered panic attacks and bouts of insomnia ever since two masked robbers threatened her with a handgun and a knife as she manned the counters at the branch in Lowestoft on September 7 - the day after her mother's funeral.

But now the Post Office has blamed the 67-year-old grandmother and her husband Tony for the loss of cash - and ordered them to make good the losses.

A letter from the Post Office management accused the couple of taking “insufficient precautions” to prevent the robbery and said the amount of money stored in the till drawer at the Kimberley Road branch exceeded Post Office guidelines.

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Mr Francis, 59, said his wife had no choice but to hand over the money and that he was shocked to be held responsible.

“There is no way I can pay back the money - it is like I have been robbed twice,” he said.

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“This came completely out of the blue. It brings the whole thing back and they are saying it is all our fault.

“We are in and out of the safe all the time. We have so many procedures manuals and everything works in theory but when it is put into practice it cannot work perfectly all the time.”

Mr Francis said he had counted up the day's deposits and placed them in the drawer before making a rare trip out of the office when his daughter Sally-Anne offered him a lift to collect his motor-home from a garage.

“If I had not had the call from Sally-Anne the money would have been in the safe by the time the robbery happened,” he said.

Mrs Francis, who has helped her husband run the Kimberley Road branch for eight years, said the day of the robbery was busy because they had been closed the previous day to attend her mother's funeral in Guildford.

She said: “I am upset and furious that this has happened. Our customers said it is the most despicable thing they have heard in their lives.

“We have no closure and they are just dragging it all up again.

Mrs Francis, who has 11 grandchildren, said the arrival of the letter would prolong the stress of the robbery into the festive season.

“We still cannot say that it is finished and we have at least another six weeks of this now, so it will be going on all over Christmas,” she said.

“It was going to be bad enough without my mother, but now we have this to deal with.”

The Post Office's letter, from agent contracts manager Sue Muddeman, said: “As a result of our investigations into the loss, I consider that insufficient precautions were taken in this respect and that you be held responsible for the loss of £10,911.76.

“The reason being the two large giro business deposits had been accepted 40 and 30 minutes prior to the incident but had not been secured in the safe.”

The couple has been asked to respond in writing or attend a meeting to convince postal chiefs the theft was unavoidable, although he has been given no date or venue for the meeting.

Although the total money stolen was £11,291, Mr Francis believed the amount they had been asked to repay had been reduced to reflect the maximum percentage of earnings for which they could be liable.

“I have tried to contact the Post Office but all I get is voicemail,” he said. “I have no choice but to attend the meeting to put our case, but I don't think they will withdraw this.”

Yesterday, neither the Post Office nor the National Federation of Sub-Postmasters were prepared to comment on individual issues or policies relating to security.

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