A FORMER sub-postmistress says she did not speak to her pregnant daughter for 18 months after she was threatened by Post Office investigators.

Tracey Merritt, 56, says she was warned about communicating with Lisa Porter, then 19, while an investigation sparked by Horizon blunders was active.

Lisa at the time was also working at the same two post offices as her mother in Dorset.

Tracey, from Wincanton, was prosecuted for theft but charges against her were dropped.

She said: “Me and my daughter worked together every day.

''Then suddenly she walks through the door and I had to tell her to get out and that I couldn’t speak to her any more.

''I was told I needed to confess otherwise I would go to prison.

"I was then told I couldn't talk to my daughter, and I believed them.

“She felt totally abandoned and I couldn't explain to her why. I felt so guilty as it was my decision to buy the post office.”

Tracey did not communicate with Lisa for a year and a half, including during the latter's pregnancy.

Tracey says her life changed forever after she was charged with “inappropriate use of funds" in 2009.

When a trainer came and set up the new system, it immediately warned that the store was £1,000 short.

Auditors subsequently said she owed £13,500 and, according to Tracey, forced her to write out a confession of her 'crime'.

She said: “My life now changed beyond all recognition. I’m now a shelf stacker on minimum wage whereas before I had my own business.

“All my friends walked away after I was accused. Now I don’t trust anyone and have no social life.

“You get paranoid with people after something like this happens to you.

"Some of my old friends have tried to communicate with me again, but why would I want to be their friend now if they didn’t believe me in the first place?”

Tracey says her and Lisa, now 32, are trying to rebuild their relationship after years of hurt.

“My daughter lives a few doors away from me and we are working hard on getting our relationship back.

“Since this has all come out, she’s now seeing some of what I went through, so she understands more but we’ve still got gaps to fill.”

Tracey says she is currently fighting for compensation but says she has to go through “an assessment process”.

Tracey and 555 claimants successfully sued the Post Office in 2019 but received very little as the majority was given over to legal fees.

Lisa told the BBC: ''It was horrendous. I had no family, no support, I lost my job, I had nothing.

"It destroyed our relationship. I won't get that time back, my mum should have been there for me when I was having scans.''

The Post Office said: "We are doing all we can to put right the wrongs of the past."