Disgraced ex-Post Office chief executive Paula Vennells apologised for “all that subpostmasters and families… have suffered” as her evidence to the Horizon IT inquiry got under way.

The 65-year-old ordained priest told the inquiry on Wednesday that she had been “too trusting”.

She was given a self-incrimination warning by chairman Sir Wyn Williams, but told him: “Thank you, Sir Wyn… I plan to answer all questions.”

Post Office Horizon IT scandal
Former Post Office boss Paula Vennells (centre) arrives to give evidence to the Post Office Horizon IT inquiry at Aldwych House in central London (Yui Mok/PA)

Ms Vennells told the probe she had “no sense there was any conspiracy at all” and admitted that individuals, including herself, had “made mistakes”.

Issuing a short statement at the beginning of the hearing, Ms Vennells said: “I would just like to say – and I’m grateful for the opportunity to do this – how sorry I am for all that subpostmasters and their families and others have suffered as a result of all of the matters that the inquiry is looking into.

“I followed and listened to all of the human impact statements and I was very affected by them.”

As his first major question to Ms Vennells, counsel to the inquiry Jason Beer KC said: “Do you think you are the unluckiest CEO in the United Kingdom?”

Ms Vennells replied: “As the inquiry has heard, there was information I wasn’t given and others didn’t receive as well.

“One of my reflections of all of this – I was too trusting.

“I did probe and I did ask questions, and I’m disappointed where information wasn’t shared, and it has been a very important time for me to plug some of those gaps.”

Ms Vennells apologised specifically to former subpostmaster and lead campaigner Alan Bates.

Addressing attendees at Aldwych House in central London, she said she would like to repeat an apology she made to Mr Bates, and a number of other individuals, in one of her witness statements.

In the statement, Ms Vennells said: “I also offer my apologies to Alan Bates, Ian Henderson, Ron Warmington, Lord Arbuthnot and all those who worked with them to secure justice for the subpostmasters.”

Questioned on whether the scandal had been a conspiracy, the ex-Post Office boss said: “No, I don’t believe that was the case.

“I have been disappointed, particularly more recently, listening to evidence of the inquiry where I think I remember people knew more than perhaps either they remembered at the time or I knew of at the time.

“I have no sense that there was any conspiracy at all.

“My deep sorrow in this is that I think that individuals, myself included, made mistakes, didn’t see things, didn’t hear things.

“I may be wrong but that wasn’t the impression that I had at the time.

“I have more questions now but a conspiracy feels too far-fetched.”