The First Lady of Flat Earth

Angela van den Bogerd, on oath once more

It is possible that Angela van den Bogerd and her senior colleagues (Rodric Williams, Mark Davies, Susan Crichton, Chris Aujard, Jarnail Singh, Patrick Bourke) were just not very bright. They were all aware of evidence which pointed to the exact opposite of what they were telling MPs, Subpostmasters and journalists about potential miscarriages of justice and the Horizon IT system, but they somehow didn’t join up the dots or make the connection. And by not making the connection, they could carry on persuading themselves campaigning Subpostmasters were wrong, or lying, or criminals.

If you want to scroll through today’s evidence with documents and a real time typed commentary, please go to the live tweet thread on this website.

This is the fifth day I’ve sat and watched AvdB give evidence on oath. After the first occasion in 2018 she was found to have attempted to mislead a High Court judge. On the second attempt, the judge said “there were no evident attempts on this occasion to mislead me in her oral evidence”, but, “I do not consider that her written evidence had provided plausible explanations. It provided explanations that the Post Office wished to advance… These explanations were not based on the facts.”

Were AvdB’s explanations based on the facts at the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry today…?

Well. Quite early on in the hearing, AvdB was presented with clear evidence that she was told in 2010, 2011 and 2014 that remote access to Subpostmaster branch accounts was possible. This is important because it went to the heart of the Post Office prosecution strategy. If other people could access Subpostmaster branch accounts, hundreds of prosecutions could be unsafe. AvdB told the High Court and the Inquiry she first found out about remote access in 2019 at the earliest.

AvdB said she did not read the first email to reach her inbox which was explicit about this, sent to her in December 2010. The email was from Lynn Hobbs, who was shortly to leave the business. In it Hobbs wrote:

“I found out this week that Fujitsu can actually put an entry into a branch account remotely. It came up when we were exploring solutions around a problem generated by the system following migration to HNGX [Horizon Online, rolled out in 2010]… One solution, quickly discounted because of the implications around integrity, was for Fujitsu to remotely enter a value into a branch account to reintroduce the missing loss/gain. So POL [the Post Office] can’t do this but Fujitsu can.”

AvdB is positive she did not see it. And it’s a very strange email, because it’s cut and pasted into the body of another email.

Jason Beer said twice today that the Inquiry found this odd, not because it was pasted into the body of another email, but because it was the only evidence the Inquiry had this email existed. The “original” email, sent to Mike Granville and Rod Ismay, could not apparently be found anywhere on the Post Office’s servers. Almost as if the a sensitive email chain containing a clear description of remote access, had been somehow removed from the Post Office’s data records. It would never have surfaced had the email’s contents not been cut and pasted into a different email chain. Funny that.

Anyway, AvdB was adamant she did not see it. She did admit seeing the 2011 email, which said:

“Fujitsu can remotely access systems and they do this on numerous occasions on a network wide basis in order to remedy glitches in the system created as a result of new software upgrades” and “Technically, Fujitsu could access an individual branch remotely and move money around however this has never happened yet”.

Although even that latter statement is untrue (by 2019 we knew Fujitsu had accessed branch data and moved money around on multiple occasions), it still contradicts what AvdB and colleagues told Panorama in 2015 – that there was “no functionality in Horizon for either a branch, Post Office or Fujitsu to edit, manipulate or remove transaction data”, going back to the beginning of Horizon’s birth.

AvdB’s excuse was that she hadn’t seen the significance of the 2011 email, or the 2014 email which said:

“Fujitsu have the ability to impact branch records via the message store”.

Given it is central to the scandal, that seems a weird position to take. But that is where the senior Post Office witnesses find themselves now, pleading incompetence or lack of awareness, because the alternative is to admit you were deliberately withholding information. And deliberately withholding information which might assist people appeal a conviction is literally perverting the course of justice, a criminal offence.

Admittedly, AvdB, did a better job than she did at the High Court. There she had to dissemble to maintain a corporate belief. Now that corporate belief has been thoroughly discredited, the only line she had to hold was her own naivety, lack of curiosity, and professional failure when it came to spotting and/or raising the alarm about remote access, and, in one lengthy segment of evidence, bugs in Horizon.

Corporate thugs

Dotted throughout the evidence today were written examples of the Post Office’s cultish desire to rebut or deny problems with Horizon and the sheer nastiness towards its agents.

One “building bridges” meeting with a Subpostmaster and her husband who’d seen a £700 branch discrepancy appear on a dormant terminal was taped, with a Post Office exec trying to insist the conversation was confidential.

In another, Graham Ward, a Subpostmaster who had ploughed £10,000 of his own money into a black hole in his accounts wondered to his manager if it was Horizon. One internal Post Office response stated:

“He makes a casual accusation that is extremely serious to the business. As usual he should either produce the evidence for this or withdraw the accusation.”

The contract means what we want it to mean

The Post Office’s incessant mis-stating of the Subpostmaster contract terms was infuriating. A Subpostmaster was only liable for discrepancies caused by his/her “carelessness, negligence or error” – something many were never told. AvdB told the Inquiry it was just the way it was. It led to this exchange:

AB: Back then, the assumption was, if there was a loss in the branch, that it was the responsibility of the Postmaster.
JB: Why was there an assumption?
AB: Because it was assumed it was user error.
JB: I’m sorry?
AB: Because it was assumed…
JB: Yes but why? There was a lot of assuming going on.
AB: I absolutely agree. There was.
JB: But why? Why does a multimillion pound business make assumptions when it’s got a written contract which prescribes the circumstances where a Subpostmaster was liable.

AvdB answers that there was no contractual change, in terms of policy or working practices to look into things. Beer was not having it.

JB: With respect Ms van den Bogerd, that doesn’t really answer the question. Did nobody read the contract and think, hold on, this contract says we can only recover money from Subpostmasters in these limited circumstances. The Subpostmasters have to prove nothing.
AB: That was the advice we were getting from legal.
JB: Who in legal?
AB: Back the it would have been Royal Mail.
JB: Yes, who in Royal Mail?

Eventually Bogerd coughs up to Mandy Talbot, Rob Wilson and Rebecca Mantel.

JB asks: “Was it the case that you very well knew the contract did not entitle the Post Office to recover money from Subpostmasters in any or all circumstances, but that’s what the Post Office pretended it said?”

AvbB told Beer it was all on legal, who told everyone else what the contract meant.

Vennells misleads MPs in private

The final section of the day concerned a readout of a meeting between Alice Perkins (PO Chair), Paula Vennells (PO CEO), AvdB and various MPs led by James Arbuthnot. In the readout of the meeting, Vennells tells the MPs that Subpostmasters can be tempted by the cash in their offices, that “there had not been a case investigated where the Horizon system had been found to be at fault” and “Every case taken to prosecution that involves the Horizon system thus far has found in favour of the Post Office.”

None of the three statements are found in the briefing pack put together for Paula Vennells and two of the statements are demonstrably false. AvdB tried to tell Beer that Vennells was perhaps emphasising elements of the briefing, until Beer points out that none of the above are in the briefing. The only thing AvdB is sure of is that she had nothing to do with it. She was just there, making up the numbers, failing to stop the untruths being spoken and failing to create them in the first place.

She’s cleverer than she looks.

Notes on Angela van den Bogerd’s second day of evidence can be read here.

I am currently touring Post Office Scandal – the Inside Story. Please do come and see us as we make our way around the country (all dates here).

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30 responses to “The First Lady of Flat Earth”

  1. Peter Harland avatar
    Peter Harland

    Whether these dreadful Post Office executives ever get prosecuted or not, there is no doubt that being cross examined in public view by KC Beer and his colleagues must be just like being strapped into a modern day village stocks, with old vegetables being thrown at you by the populace. These Post Office executives are all marked people fittingly so as they had so marked innocent postmasters and postmistresses, now some of their own medicine!! Cheap rotten tomatoes anyone??

  2. More of the same on her second day. Several times Ms Van Den Bogerd admitted that she had viewed the oral evidence of other witnesses. This being the case, she had obviously failed(a pertinent word to use vis-a-vis many aspects of her POL carreer) to realise that Jason Beer(who is lead counsel for a reason!) is the one who asks the most “incisive” questions of witnesses, and certainly will “detect and reject” any form of obfuscation.
    It does appear,that, from her evidence and witness statement, that Van Den MsBogerd is almost certianly guilty of “wilful negligence”(negligent acts where the defendant disregards the risks of their actions and is aware (or should be aware) of the possible impacts).
    The accuracy of her evidence appears to be similar to that of her description of the Horizon system given to subpostmasters/mistresses by her :” I describe Horizon to new users as a big calculator”
    It is feasible that Ms Van Den Bogerd will have her day in court, but it might not be as a witness………..

  3. Andrew Edgington avatar
    Andrew Edgington

    In the Inquiry she has no incentive to tell the truth – far better to lie and claim incompetence. In a “plea bargain” situation she might find it better to tell the truth, plead guilty and get a reduced sentence, rather than continue to lie, get found guilty and get a much longer sentence.

  4. I just wanted to thank you, Nick for your work. I’ve got so depressed that I can’t manage to watch a lot of these managerial interviews. However, I know you will summarise what I need to know.

  5. For a director with so many “intentions” she is a remarkably ineffective manager. Yet she still got promotions and bonuses in this arsewipe of an organisation.

  6. If I am ever in trouble with the law, I want the phone numbers of Mr Henry or Mr Stein!

  7. Anthony Spencer avatar
    Anthony Spencer

    Lest it be forgotten, Fujitsu needs to be brought to book as well. People need to understand that it has other onging massive contracts with HM government. A total of £1.39 billion with HMRC alone with the potential to affect a vastly greater number of people than the SPMs should there be any nasties lurking there as well.

  8. In my humble opinion PV & AvdB should spend some time ( say 5 years) at his majesty’s pleasure in Style woman’s prison in the same cell where they can both contemplate together just what the enormity of what they have done.

  9. It can be said that Avdb has just given the performance of her life. It is insulting to think that her income from POL including her performance bonuses have been ploughed into an insane amount of legal coaching and “dress rehearsals” for Inquiry questioning from JB KC, so she can try to prevent the CPS from gaining the confidence that a case for commencing criminal proceeding could be brought.
    I have found the last two days frustrating. Again, we see that memory recall being robust (excuse the pun) when Avdb needed to refute a claim and nonexistent when it was of material importance. The lack of positive evidence to support her testimony is telling and the biggest invisible “smoking gun” that we could fall back on. Her lack of humility, genuine remorse and empathy for all the victims was palpable throughout and left a sickening feeling in my stomach.

    Noting the above is all speculation on my part and only my humble opinion.

    1. Most of the other managers and execs are singing off the same hymn sheet “I don’t know and it wasn’t me”. Perhaps they’re all being coached by the same legal experts.

  10. Edward Snell, MSc FCA avatar
    Edward Snell, MSc FCA

    “I find it a bit rich that despite all the taxpayer money being invested you lot still fail to understand that maintaining the “MESSAGING” of the POO orifice is infinitely more important than trivia!

    Trivia to include –
    – at least four corpses,
    – a few dozen bankruptices,
    – other extortion of huge amounts of money, often life savings and those of loved ones too, from many thousands of worthless commoners,
    – the mass jailings or at least inextinguishable criminal convictions of at least eight hundred SPMs (why bother to keep accurate records of these lowlifes?), often mere WOMEN, like Seema Misra, Jo Hamilton and similar undesirables, also ASIAN (including WELSH, naturally) subhuman types as classified according to POL’s own racial profiling and perhaps BNP-derived classification system.

    Where’s that monster Crozier skulking? Anyone who thinks v.d.Bogerd and Vennells and markedly guiltier than the other POO highups over the decades, than the pack of internal and external lawyers and “investigators” (sic) and “auditors” (sicsic) and complicitly blind and deaf CCRC, than the negligent Injustices like the incompetent buffoon Richard Havery (responsible for the toilet paper 2007 judgment against Lee Castleton, another mere and uppity commoner who was so idiotic as to expect justice at the HC!), and all the others complicit in this magnificent tribute to British Fairness?”

    In keeping with POO Orifice tradition, I shredded the original, where I really wrote my mind, as I don’t wish to have the dumber than doorknobs, politically correct, woke constabulary at my door. However, the above fragment survived in another email which accidentally did not get van-den-Boggered.

  11. There are occasions, when not knowing is very hard work. This sounds like one of them.

    1. May I draw your attention to a quotation from Upton Beall Sinclair, an American writer?

      “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

      And… While I was hunting it down, to ensure I quoted accurately, I found this, from his book “The Jungle”-

      “The great corporation which employed you lied to you, and lied to the whole country—from top to bottom it was nothing but one gigantic lie.” The descriptions in “The Jungle” of slaughterhouse practices disturbed me, to the point I couldn’t remember that passage in it…

  12. Anne Dickinson avatar

    Marvellous interpretation of this mornings session. Nick makes everything easier to take in. Thanks

  13. Geraint Griffiths avatar
    Geraint Griffiths

    As usual Nick your reporting is excellent and today’s offering is suitably scathing. It will be interesting to see what the official report says about this lady, I hope she gets what she deserves.
    It will be interesting to see if approach taken by the PO legal defence in the postmasters High Court action ever gets the criticism I think it deserves.

  14. I watched day one of the oral evidence of Angela van den Bogerd and as I write this comment I am currently watching day two. I am now of the opinion that it would seem virtually impossible, based on Ms Bogerd’s evidence, that she is capable of answering a closed question(requiring a simple yes/no answer) without attempting some form of obfuscation(the action of making something obscure, unclear, or unintelligible). I suspect that Chair(Sir Wyn Williams) perhaps also might have been frustrated with her attempted obfuscation(as I certainly was), although I have no evidence of this(similar to POL in its pursuit of subpostmasters through the courts)
    However, she was up against Jason Beer(lead counsel) who didn’t give her an inch, as it were, and deftly pointed out that she should answer the question that was put to her, rather than the one which she chose to answer in this obfuscatory manner.

    to be continued……….

  15. Mr Shaun Taylor avatar

    Right at the end Beer basically says, well what did you do all day, as she doesn’t actually seem to do anything.
    Secondly was money ever discovered in any case related to Horizon. We didn’t actually find any money in that persons private bank account, strangely enough we didn’t in that case either or in that case etc. Join the dots.
    I kind of agree about Second Sight, this was way beyond a 2 man team. There were 29 bugs and they didn’t discover any, they were just told about 3. For a years work its not that great.
    Overall the ability of the staff were incredibly limited, the point of appointing general counsels who know nothing about criminal law escapes me.
    As for Roderick and Jarnail words cannot express.

  16. Name Withheld, KC avatar
    Name Withheld, KC


    “She did admit seeing the 2011 email” – silly Nick, that doesn’t mean she accepted its legitimacy and bona fides, or that it passed the rigorous AvdB Input Quality Control Filtration Mechanism, and was thus “registered”.

    You keep referring to that shower as comprising a cult. A criminal gang is far closer to it. Permit me to explain by way of just one single example; there were hundreds of others.

    Above, you wrote “The ‘original’ email, sent to Mike Granville and Rod Ismay, could not apparently be found anywhere on the Post Office’s servers”.

    For the benefit of your less astute readers, including apparent naifs, mugwumpfs, incompetents, deniers and donkeys (/sarcasm) like Rodric Williams, Mark Davies, Susan Crichton, Chris Aujard, Jarnail Singh, Patrick Bourke, Paula Vennells and others are desperate to con us into believing they are, sometimes the absence of something tells us more than its presence.

    I draw the parallel with the appalling extermination lager (camp) of Treblinka, where about 700,000 unfortunates, almost all of them Jewish, met a swift and brutal end, transitioned from living flesh to ash and smoke in an average processing time of a mere seven hours. But when the Soviet Army overran where it and its railway station had been, there was nothing to be found, only an innocuous farm with apparently untouched fields around it.

    That at a time when the German war machine, Wehrmacht, S.S. and all the other odious apparatus of terror, were terribly short of resources (and time), they had, with almost complete success, destroyed and buried all evidence of the terrible crimes that had been perpetrated there shows that they fully recognised what history’s verdict of their megacrimes would be. Treblinka, unlike the other major death camps, had no survivors. Only ground radar and digging to reveal millions of tiny bone fragmemts buried a hundred feet beneath the surface, and a few guard-taken photographs that surfaced much later, gave the answer to what had happened there.

    Likewise here, where the fragmentary cite of the Hobbs to Ismay & Granville email had failed to be erased from history, while the original had “mysteriously” (/sarcasm) been shredded to a hundred feet under, leads to the undoing of this gang of ruthless, conscienceless crooks.

    Mr Beer KC and I share many skills, forensic too, but I surely lack his forbearance. At the unbelievable audacity of some of the dissembling, I may have been hard-pressed to resist the temptation to vault the barrier and take the law into my own hands with these murderers of the reputations of thousands of innocent SPMs and families – and sometimes murdering more than only their reputations.

    If a hundred of the top POL/RM crooks are not jailed, some of them for life, the miscarriage of justice has not been ended.

    A very competent forensic journalist whom I occasionally advise has obtained damning evidence of highly improper relationships, quite evidently prejudicial to the administration of justice, between one or two seniormost bosses at the Criminal Cases Review Commission and lawyers and familiars of Post Office Limited. When he attempted to bring this to the attention of the CCRC, he was summarily if not rudely dismissed.

    These reasy-pole climbing types never learn, do they? Their instant reaction is denial and cover-up, thereby digging themselves in deeper. Where were they in this largest ever and most appalling miscarriage of justice scandal? Swanning off on taxpayer funded holidays, it appears from the emails I’ve been shown. Shameless facilitators of injustice. Is there a shortage of P45s in government and quangos? The CCRC begs for a massive spring clean if not abolition and rebirth with dedicated staff in place of the present disgraceful, easily-fooled (that’s in the words of the P.O. seniors!) gullible incompetents.

    1. Brilliant.

  17. The CONSCIENCE of AvdB. avatar
    The CONSCIENCE of AvdB.

    I don’t exist!

    On her first day of testimony, Angela van-den-Bogerd inadvertently but conclusively revealed (try as hard to conceal this as this conscienceless varmint did) exactly -w-h-y- SHE, rather than any of the other crooked accomplices, was chosen by Venal Venables to accompany her to help commit perjury and pervert the course of justice before the evidence-finding Business, Innovation and Skills Parliamentary Committee on Tuesday 3 February 2015 at the Wilson Room, Portcullis House…

  18. Margaret Heffernan’s book “Willful Blindness” is worth reading.

  19. I know I’m looking at this with hindsight however, I find it impossible to comprehend that someone like AvdB in a position of responsibility would find it so remarkably difficult to realise that Horizon was badly flawed.

    2010 Email to her that Fujitsu can put record into branch account remotely.
    2011 Email saying Fujitsu regularly altered branch accounts to correct problems.
    2013 JB you say lastly you had no knowledge of ANY bugs until 2S Interim report in 2013. Really?

    2019 “We had no evidence there were any problems with Horizon until the case”. But she admits she knew in 2013 from 2S.

    Surely the revelation of a back door would have had everyone talking about it unless they already knew and already had a pact to ignore it and hide the fact.

    A telling phrase to me was to the effect that the ‘messaging kept changing’. In other words the party line kept changing but the facts didn’t of course. It was known from the inception of Horizon, at least by Fujitsu, that uncontrolled, unrecorded and uncontested fiddling within SPM accounts was possible. POL closed its ears and eyes to this for years.

    The meeting with Mr and Mrs Athwal looks rather oppressive to me. They were from Dorset but the meeting took place in PO Head Office in Old Street, London and was tape recorded. Drag them up to London, put them on PO territory and record it like an interview under caution. AvdB was trying to say yesterday she wasn’t lying in that interview by saying the Post Office couldn’t fiddle in branch accounts when she knew full well Fujitsu could do that and they of course were the administrators of the Post Office system. Mr Athwal actually mentioned Fujitsu without it prompting her to greater honesty.

  20. Despite working her way up into a senior executive position during 35 years employment at the Post Office it is most unfortunate that AvB apparently had no responsibility for anything and very little knowledge of what she was doing.
    It is therefore no surprise that she was eventually made redundant.

  21. Maria Koekkoek avatar

    Thanks again for your views on yesterdays inquiry. You have been busy. hope you will continue the coming weeks!

  22. stuart campbell avatar
    stuart campbell

    The subtitles for the inquiry have provided a welcome distractionfrom the evasive testimony of the participants. It seems to have paticular difficulty with Lord Arbuthnot choosing instead Lord Above North and Mr Our Butternut. There are many other examples and I can only imagine what people who have to rely on the subtitles make of the proceedings. I haven’t seen and rude words yet but then being pure of mind they might just have gone over my head. Still it’s good to see Fujitsu exploring wider markets for their expertise.

  23. When, after many attempts at running and hiding, you are eventually caught “bang to rights” in a corporate environment your only options are to plead either (a) insanity, (b) incompetence or (c) guilty. Yesterday we watched option (b) playing out. Uncomfortable for her no doubt, but criminal charges lie at the end of any other route except insanity.

  24. Angela van den Bogerd’s evidence sounds like it comes from a Non Player Character, with a predetermined set of scripted options (Second Sight was not making evidence based judgements) and no individual agency to change the events that are about to unfold. However, all the while she was the smarmy blocking agent who volunteered to be tasked with obfuscating the systemic failings of POL in many successive chapters of the Horizon story. Her early successes were rewarded with pats on the back and promotions and now she clings to all the carefully crafted messaging for safety as torrents of truth tear her on brand reasoning to shreds.

  25. Particularly liked Jason Beer’s question “Exactly what did you do?” Clearly unimpressed with AVB’s ‘not me Guv’ to every question…….now we’re getting evidence from the most Senior people, taken at face value, we’re seeing an Organisation stuffed full of people clearly out of their depth or self-seeking, completely institutionalised to the point where they could rationalise any issue irrespective of logic or legal regulation, under the cover of a corporate structure over-stuffed with Managers & reporting lines facilitating a bunker mentality where important bucks could be passed with impunity. This really is a Corporate governance horror story.

  26. Listening to yesterday’s evidence, I was struck by the way that, when interviewing the husband and wife subpostmaster couple, Angela and her fellow POL worker kept specifically to the line that “no-one at POL can do change the branch transactions”, rather than “that isn’t possible”. So despite not having read the remote access email or knowing about remote access by Fujitsu at all, she just happened to phrase things so that her statements were at least still true in a narrowly technical sense. Just another mysterious co-incidence, I expect.

  27. Just to let you know that your work is really appreciated. I have no direct affiliation with the victims of this scandal but it has obsessed me since I first discovered your pod.
    To get distilled take aways from the big days at the inquiry is very helpful to us laymen and your direct style is a nice antidote to all their obfuscation and forgetfulness. Thanks Nick, brilliant work and I hope it turbo charges your career

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