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Perthshire postmistress says Post Office scandal wrecked marriage and has left her facing financial ruin

Comrie's Marlene Wood has opened her heart to The Courier on how the Post Office scandal turned her life upside down.

Marlene Wood. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson
Marlene Wood. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson

A Perthshire postmistress says she is facing personal and financial ruin because the Post Office is still using the discredited computers at the centre of the Horizon scandal.

Marlene Wood claims the system throws up errors in the balance sheet at her Comrie shop virtually every day.

She recently paid out a £400 shortfall to the Post Office.

And the 53-year-old says she is now heavily in debt to family members and waiting for the bank to shut her down.

Marlene admits the strain has ended her marriage and made her think about ending her own life.

She has spoken to The Courier after the ITV drama Mr Bates vs The Post Office, watched by tens of millions of viewers, turned the spotlight on the organisation’s darkest hour and the lives it devastated.

Marlene is urging the public to remember Horizon – developed by Japanese giants Fujitsu – is still making life a misery for people like her.

Marlene Wood standing arms folded behind the counter of her post office in Comrie
Marlene at her post office counter in Comrie – but for how much longer? Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson

She told The Courier: “I’ve been suicidal. My marriage has broken up. I have no money, I’ve put it all into my post office.

“And now I’m going to lose my business.

“I’m 53 and I’m going to end up sleeping on my mum’s couch because I tried to be an honest person.”

Horizon computer at odds with Comrie post office takings

Marlene, a former nurse, thought all her dreams had come true when she took over the post office in Comrie four and a half years ago.

She and her husband had longed for their own home and business, and the community in the Perthshire village welcomed her.

Instead, it quickly turned into a nightmare.

She says the Horizon accounting software, which records all post office transactions, has NEVER matched her own takings.

Marlene Wood standing outside post office in village of Comrie, perthshire
Marlene Wood outside her Comrie post office. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson
Post Office Horizon keyboard and computer screen on counter at Comrie Post Office
Marlene says the Post Office Horizon system is the bane of her existence. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson

Occasionally, the discrepancy has been in Marlene’s favour. But she claims 95% of the time the computer suggests there is money missing.

And when that happens it’s down to postmasters to make the books balance.

“If you’re someone who is a worrier, you pay it out of your own pocket,” she said.

Often it’s just a few pounds or pence, she says, and it’s easier to make up the difference than to fight the system.

But if it’s happening almost every day, it soon adds up.

“You put the money in, hoping it will even out over the month and then it never does,” said Marlene.

She says she did embark on an appeal against a recent Horizon calculation which found she owed the Post Office £400.

Close-up of letter sent from from Post Office Ltd to Marlene Wood at Comrie post office
The letter Marlene received when she questioned the Comrie post office discrepancy. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson

But when the paperwork came through she decided it would be less stressful if she just paid up.

“In the end I paid it myself,” she said.

“I couldn’t face going through all that.

“There is always this fear that if you raise it and take it further, it might turn out to be your fault and then you look more stupid.”

‘Vicious circle’ destroying Comrie post office dream

Marlene says she has now exhausted all her own money and borrowed heavily from her mother and other family members.

In a good month, she might make £1,600 – but only if she works seven days a week and provides Post Office outreach services in surrounding communities, such as Muthill.

Marlene Wood speaking to customer at the post office counter in Comrie
The post office provides a valuable community service in Comrie and beyond. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson

That leaves very little to survive on once she’s paid her overheads on the shop, and nothing to put back into the business.

“Because I’ve got no money, the stock in my shop is awful, so no one’s coming in to buy anything,” she said.

“The business is up for sale, but who’s going to want to take on a post office now?

“I’m in a vicious circle. It’s like I’m battering my head against a brick wall.

“I’d love to be a normal person. But I can’t even afford to get my van fixed so I can go to the cash and carry.”

TV show comes too late for many

After years of campaigning journalism on the issue, Mr Bates vs The Post Office has brought the Horizon scandal to a global audience.

More than 700 UK sub-postmasters who used the Fujitsu machines were prosecuted for theft and false accounting between 2000 and 2014.

Toby Jones (centre) played Alan Bates in the ITV drama. Image: ITV Plc

They included up to 100 in Scotland.

Myra Philp and her mother Mary were wrongly accused of stealing £70,000 from Auchtermuchty Post Office.

Former Pitlochry and Kinloch Rannoch postmaster Chris Dawson lost his house and marriage after he too was wrongly pursued for theft and fraud.

Campaigners say a great many more, who were not prosecuted, lost their money, their livelihoods and their peace of mind.

Marlene says she had been heartened by the public response to the drama.

And she has found comfort in the support of other postmasters across the UK through the Voice of the Postmaster campaign group.

But she says the outpouring has come too late to save her business.

“I love my post office,” she says.

“I love Comrie and the community here. And I’d have done anything to make it work

“It’s too late for me. But if me putting my head above the parapet helps someone else who’s in a similar position I’m happy to do that.”

Post Office responds to claims

A Post Office spokesperson said: “We are very sorry to hear of the experience our postmistress for Comrie is having at the moment.

Comrie Newsagents and Post Office exterior
The Post Office says it is sending an area manager to Comrie to speak to Marlene. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson

“Our dedicated area manager had been in recent contact over the phone with the postmistress and will be visiting the branch in the coming days to further understand the issues the postmistress is having and to talk through what support might be available that could make a difference to her situation.

“This is a challenging economic climate for many retailers and we recognise postmasters, like all retailers, have had to deal with increases in energy costs and the living wage which has impacted their bottom line.

“Our focus has been and continues to be on driving footfall to our branches and improving branch profitability.”

When life is difficult, Samaritans are there – day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at ,or visit to find your nearest branch.