ROYAL Mail chiefs have been slammed for attempting to 'gag' a sub-postmaster just years after rewarding him for single-handedly foiling armed raiders.
Behesh Pandya, who has run the branch in Whitton Road, Hounslow, for more than two decades, risked his life to raise the alarm when gun-toting robbers struck five years ago.
Despite being badly beaten, he managed to reach a panic button as his attackers were busy tying his wife, two children and elderly mother with masking tape.
He was rewarded for his bravery at the time, only to be told last month his store is closing and he risks losing out on compensation if he does anything to protest.
Resident Pat Collins, who is leading the campaign against the store's closure, described Mr Pandya's treatment as 'shocking'.
"This is a loyal servant who's not even been allowed to place a petition in his branch," he said.
"He's also been told that if he loses his franchise he won't be able to install
PayPoint (a bill paying service) at the shop for another year, which is a lot of civil rights being stamped on."
The threatened branch, which is used by up to 750 customers a week, is just 10 metres from the nearest bus stop and none of the surrounding shops have a cash machine.
More than 350 people have written in support of Mr Pandya, from a 10-year-old who described him as 'one of the coolest people I know' to a 96-year-old who said the only time he'd left home that week was to post his letter.
"There are a large number of elderly people in the area and if the post office goes their lifeline will be cut off," said Mr Collins.
"The so-called alternatives in Hanworth Road, Hounslow, and Whitton High Street, have no direct bus links.
"One elderly lady said she has to take a wheelchair over a narrow bridge if she turns left out of her home and if she turns right she has to cross two busy roads just to reach the bus stop."
London Assembly candidate Stephen Knight, who has placed petitions in surrounding shops, described the branch as a 'vital hub for the community'.