‘Kate Middleton backed us amid Post Office scandal’: Former postmaster

Hasmukh Shingadia expressed gratitude for the Middleton family’s backing during a challenging decade

Princess of Wales attends The “Together At Christmas” Carol Service at Westminster Abbey on December 08, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

By:
Pramod Thomas

A postmaster, who once served sweets to Kate Middleton and her sister Pippa during their teenage years, has revealed the unwavering support he received from the Duchess of Cambridge when he was wrongly accused in the Post Office scandal.

Hasmukh Shingadia, 63, and his wife Chandrika, 55, were even invited to Kate and Prince William’s wedding in 2011.

Despite facing false accounting charges, he expressed gratitude for the Middleton family’s backing during a challenging decade, reported The Sun.

Shingadia’s conviction was quashed in 2021, adding to the mounting calls for justice for the approximately 700 sub-postmasters affected by the Horizon scandal.

He shared how Kate Middleton and her family continued to frequent his Spar and Post Office in Upper Bucklebury, Berkshire, even after his conviction.

“Not everybody did that, and some locals shunned me,” he said, reflecting on the difficult times. His relationship with the Middletons remained strong, with Michael Middleton expressing joy after Shingadia’s conviction was overturned.

“After my conviction was overturned and it was in the media, Michael Middleton came in and asked what had happened. He was overjoyed and said, ‘Well done’. I know I couldn’t ask them for help directly because of the position they were in. But I am really grateful to the wider family for standing by me. They are really good people,” he was quoted as saying by The Sun.

Shingadia acquired his branch for around £60,000 and invested heavily in renovations. The Fujitsu Horizon system was implemented in 2001, and he quickly identified technical glitches. Error messages in 2009 and 2010 revealed discrepancies worth several hundred pounds.

The financial discrepancies resulted from flawed software that duplicated transactions, despite assurances that such errors were not possible. The cumulative missing amount reached £16,000, and Hasmukh attempted to rectify it by using his personal earnings and borrowing from friends and family.

Despite multiple calls to the helpline, the Post Office provided minimal assistance and asserted that the issue was isolated. In March 2010, auditors from the Post Office suspended him upon discovering the shortfall. That same year, Shingadia faced the challenges of a cancer diagnosis, surgery to remove a sarcoma, and the loss of his mother.

Subsequently, his Post Office contract was terminated, leading to a criminal pursuit by the public body’s lawyers.

Shingadia’s solicitor advised him to plead guilty. A mere 83 days after the royal wedding, he received an eight-month suspended sentence at Oxford Crown Court, coupled with an order to pay over £2,000 in costs and complete 200 hours of community service.

Despite the legal victory, Shingadia admitted to ongoing emotional and mental struggles, describing the ordeal as “horrible” and revealing past suicidal thoughts.

The Horizon scandal, which occurred between 1999 and 2015, saw 700 convictions, including Shingadia’s, based on faulty evidence from the Post Office’s Horizon computer system.

Shingadia now advocates for the exoneration of all 736 sub-postmasters wrongfully convicted during the Horizon scandal.