Alan Bates calls Paula Vennells ‘Cruella de Vil playing Mary Poppins’

  • Ex-post boss Paula Vennells said she had ‘no one to blame’ but herself
  • Lawyers for subpostmasters accused her of being “crazy and selfish.”
  • Campaigner Alan Bates said she ‘probably enjoyed not having to know anything’



Disgraced former Post Office boss Paula Vennells yesterday admitted she had ‘no one to blame’ but herself as former deputy postmaster and campaigner Alan Bates tearfully dismissed her investigation and compared her to ‘Cruella de Vil trying to play Mary Poppins ‘.

Former CEO Vennells faced a barrage of criticism from sub-postmasters’ lawyers during the public inquiry.

They accused her of being “crazy and selfish,” being in a “cloud of denial,” and being “in la-la land” after she said she didn’t know the full extent of the scandal at the moment when she was in charge. .

Ms Vennells – who lost her CBE earlier this year after public backlash over her role in the scandal – cried for a second day this week as she described how she ‘loved the Post Office’.

But her claims were dismissed as ‘humbug’ by Edward Henry KC, who represented some of the victims of the false accounting scandal at the central London inquiry.

Disgraced former Post Office boss Paula Vennells yesterday admitted she had ‘no one to blame’ but herself as lawyers for sub-postmasters at the Horizon inquiry accused her of being ‘cowardly and selfish’, in a ‘cloud of denial’ . and being ‘in la-la land’
Campaigner Alan Bates dismissed Vennells’ tears, likening this to ‘a Cruella de Vil trying to play Mary Poppins’

Campaigner Alan Bates, whose fight for justice inspired ITV’s hit drama Alan Bates v The Post Office, was also unconvinced by Vennells.

He told The Telegraph: ‘It felt like Cruella de Vil trying to play Mary Poppins.

“She probably loved the money, loved the bonuses and loved not having to know anything.

Click here to change the format of this module

“It was her job to say she loved the post office, and probably in her job description too.”

At the inquest, Vennells was booed by sections of the 100-strong crowd after it emerged she had made disparaging comments about Post Office victim Jo Hamilton.

It came after Tim Moloney KC, representing another section of victims, pointed to an email Ms Vennells sent to senior colleagues in 2014 about a BBC One Show documentary about the Horizon software at the heart of the case .

In it she wrote that she was ‘more bored than disgusted’ with the programme, and said Mrs Hamilton – later played by Monica Dolan in the ITV series Mr Bates vs The Post Office – ‘lacked passion and admitted to false accounting on TV’ .

She turned to Mrs. Hamilton, who was sitting some distance away, and said, “I regret everything I said. I regret everything I wrote.’

More than 700 post office operators were prosecuted for theft, fraud and false accounting between 1999 and 2015 after Horizon software falsely gave the impression that money was missing from their branches.

Ms Vennells was subjected to extraordinary criticism from lawyers, sometimes reducing the former director to tears
The former post office boss admitted to the inquiry that ‘the post office and I have not always taken the right path’

On Ms Vennells’ third and final day of evidence before the inquest, lawyers representing the victims were each given an hour to challenge her.

What followed was an extraordinary capriciousness, which sometimes brought the former director to tears.

Mr Henry asked the 65-year-old: ‘There were so many forks in the road, but you always took the wrong path, didn’t you?’

Ms Vennells said she had tried to contribute to the investigation ‘to the best of my ability’ after Mr Henry dismissed her witness statement as ‘a cowardly and selfish story’.
Members of the Justice for Subpostmaster Alliance protest outside the Horizon investigation

Mrs Vennells replied: ‘It was an extremely complex undertaking and the Post Office and I did not always follow the right path.’

In an apparent reference to her position as an ordained Anglican priest, Mr Henry told her: ‘You preach compassion but you don’t practice it.’

Click here to change the format of this module

After suggesting she had “no one to blame but yourself”, Ms Vennells responded: “Where I made mistakes and where I made the wrong calls… where I had information and I made the wrong calls, yes, Naturally .’

She said she had tried to contribute to the investigation ‘to the best of my ability’ after Mr Henry dismissed her witness statement as ‘a cowardly and selfish story’.

She claimed she did not fully understand the legal and technological sides of the business, and only became aware of errors in the IT system in 2013 – years after the Post Office began taking sub-postmasters to court.

Ms Vennells also claimed she was unaware the Horizon software was remotely accessible by other parties.

Mr Henry replied: ‘It’s extraordinary, isn’t it, because Cartwright King, your outside lawyers, know all about it, and yet you say you didn’t know, the board didn’t – I mean, this is la-la land, isn’t it ?’

Sam Stein KC, representing another group of victims, accused Ms Vennells of ‘covering up the mistakes in the Horizon scandal’.

She said: ‘There are no words that can express the regret I feel.’

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *