Scottish Daily Mail
Big trouble in Balamory: Pt2
Island Post Office hit by second serious fraud
FOR its legions of young viewers, the perplexing case of the stolen sticky bun was about as serious as crime ever got in Balamory.
But the fictional town’s PC Plum would struggle to cope with events in the real-life community where the BBC children’s show was shot.
Tobermory, on the Inner Hebridean Island of Mull, has just seen its second serious post office fraud in recent years.
Earlier this week, sub-postmistress Kay MacDonald admitted embezzling £27,500 in less than a year while she was running Tobermory Post Office.
Oban Sheriff Court heard that the 51year- old, of Dervaig, near Tobermory,
‘Robbing Peter to pay Paul’
took the money between May 12, 2010 and April 12, 2011, when she ran the Post Office on Main Street.
Sentence was deferred until May 28 for the preparation of background reports.
Remarkably, a previous sub-postmaster recently admitted to taking more than £80,000 from the same tiny rural post office without permission.
Peter Dugdale blamed his crime on the decline of Balamory-inspired tourism after the BBC pulled the plug on the programme.
In April 2011, he pleaded guilty to embezzling £81,494.98 between November 2006 and March 2009. He told Oban Sheriff Court that he dipped into the till to pay off mounting debts, including credit card payments, VAT and staff wages.
Dugdale, then 56, ran the post office and shop selling Balamory merchandise, sweets, cigarettes and newspapers.
He claimed he took the cash after filming on the TV show stopped caused a downturn in his business.
Tobermory, with its distinctive brightly- coloured row of houses at the harbour front, enjoyed a massive boom in visitors eager to see the famous film sets. But when production halted in 2004, tourist numbers began to decline – along with shop takings.
Dugdale, a first offender, narrowly avoided jail but was ordered to complete the maximum of 300 hours of community service.
Procurator fiscal David Glancy told the court: ‘The Post Office provides the sub-postmaster with cash to enable him to run the business. A clause in the contract expressly prohibits the use of Post Office money for any other purpose. On March 19, 2009, a routine inspection at Tobermory Post Office was undertaken by internal auditors.
‘They uncovered a shortfall of £81,494. Dugdale was interviewed by fraud investigators and was cooperative and frank.
‘It is a lot of bad luck and bad timing on his part.
‘Due to the success of a children’s TV programme, tourist numbers to the island increased beyond all reasonable expectations. When the numbers dropped, his business also took a corresponding dip.’
Mr Glancy added: ‘It was always his intention to repay this money, but he then become embroiled in a situation where he was having to rob Peter to pay Paul.’
The court heard that the business had been sold and the cash repaid.
Defence solicitor Gordon MacNab said: ‘The whole thing was misguided. He was not motivated by personal greed or gain... It was bad management.’