"They are really good people."
A former postmaster who was wrongly accused of stealing £16,000 revealed how Kate Middleton stood by him throughout the ordeal.
Hasmukh Shingadia was one of the hundreds of postmasters who were wrongly convicted of stealing from the Post Office due to a fault with the Horizon IT software.
The 63-year-old used to serve the Princess of Wales and her sister Pippa at his Spar and Post Office in Upper Bucklebury, Berkshire when they were teenagers.
And during the early days of Kate’s romance with William, he would even visit Mr Shingadia’s shop for ice cream.
The connection between Mr Shingadia and the Middletons was so close that he and his wife Chandrika received an invitation to the 2011 Royal Wedding.
But just 83 days after the wedding, he pleaded guilty to false accounting because he was “made to feel” he had.
As a result, some locals “shunned him”. But the Middletons continued to visit his shop.
A decade later, Mr Shingadia had his eight-month suspended prison sentence thrown out after taking advice from former sub-postmaster Alan Bates.
He explained how the Middletons had “supported me a lot” during those dark times with Kate’s father, Michael, coming into the shop after his conviction was overturned.
Mr Shingadia recalled: “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.”
To try and pay back the money he was wrongly accused of stealing, Mr Shingadia used his own money and borrowed from friends and family.
However, Post Office auditors suspended him in 2010.
Mr Shingadia eventually lost his job and became suicidal.
He is still coming to terms with what happened.
Mr Shingadia told The Sun: “It was horrible, not only for me, but my family as well. We all went through hell. I had suicidal thoughts.”
When he was cleared in 2021, Mr Shingadia burst into tears.
He said at the time: “I was in all the newspapers as the royal wedding guest who was a thief and a fraudster so today is massive for me and my family, but also of course the other subpostmasters who have had their convictions quashed.
“I’d seen Kate Middleton grow up and I remember her being in my shop on the day the radio was saying she was to marry William.
“Being a guest at the wedding meant the press focused on my case in court.
“It was an awful time for us when I was convicted.”
“My mother had died the previous year, I’d had cancer and undergone surgery to remove a sarcoma, and my daughters were only young at the time and they had people telling them at school that their dad was a thief.”
The former postmaster now wants the remaining sub-postmasters cleared.
The scandal sparked renewed anger following the airing of ITV’s Mr Bates vs The Post Office.
Ex-Post Office boss Paula Vennells handed back her CBE after a petition calling for her honour to be taken received 1.2 million signatures.
She said: “I have listened and I confirm that I return my CBE with immediate effect.
I am truly sorry for the devastation caused to the sub-postmasters and their families, whose lives were torn apart by being wrongly accused and wrongly prosecuted as a result of the Horizon system.”