Fusilier Lee Rigby (Picture: Sam Szymanski).
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Fundraiser Guilty Of Pocketing Cash Collected For Lee Rigby's Son

A fundraiser who pocketed cash collected for the young son of murdered soldier Lee Rigby has been found guilty of two counts of fraud.

Fusilier Lee Rigby (Picture: Sam Szymanski).

Fusilier Lee Rigby (Picture: Sam Szymanski).

A fundraiser who pocketed cash collected for the young son of murdered soldier Lee Rigby has been found guilty of two counts of fraud.

Jurors unanimously convicted Gary Gardner - who had spent profits on producing a music single he knew would be a "flop".

Leicester Crown Court heard how Gardner spent up to £5,000 donated by the public for Fusilier Rigby's son, Jack Rigby, on producing a charity music single which only raised £200.

56-year-old Gardner from Medbourne in Leicestershire denied fraud, claiming his charity single was a flop because of "atrocious weather" at the launch event in London's Trafalgar Square in February 2014.

However, the jury found him guilty after accepting that he used trust funds to "prop up" his overdrawn bank account - a verdict which provoked no emotion from the defendant.

Fusilier Lee Rigby of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers was murdered outside Woolwich Barracks in London in May 2013.

Shortly after the soldier's death, Gardner said he wanted to raise money for Jack Rigby and local Medbourne village causes.

At the start of the Crown court trial, prosecutor Samuel Skinner said Gardner also used profits for travel expenses in London as he transferred funds from the charity bank account to his own personal account.

Mr Skinner told jurors: "The defendant appears to have an enthusiasm for promoting emerging music artists and it is the showcasing of these acts that has swallowed up most of the verifiable donations.

"In any event, the defendant used some of the money for a purpose that the original donors never intended and would not have approved if they had known.

"It appears that the defendant has spent all the money he received."

The court was also told the lorry driver put on truck-pull fundraiser events in 2013, 2014 and 2015 - two in Leicestershire and one in Gloucestershire - which were attended by thousands of people, including Fusilier Rigby's widow and  his son, Jack.

Giving evidence in the trial, Fusilier Rigby's widow Rebecca, said: "There were talks of climbing Kilimanjaro, there were a number of things he (Gardner) wanted to do to raise funds for Jack.

"He spoke about large money - thousands - and it was as if it would set Jack up for life."

Mrs Rigby was asked: "Have you ever received any money from this defendant?" to which she replied: "Jack and myself have never received a penny from him."

After verdicts were reached, Steven Kennell from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said: "Gary Gardner's beneficiary, the trust set up for Fusilier Rigby's son, never received a penny from him.

"The CPS has presented clear-cut evidence to the court that Gardner did not pass any of the money he raised to the trust fund, and only made the local donations he did make when confronted about his activities.

"Whatever his intentions in starting his fundraising, the jury has agreed his activities constituted fraud, in failing to transfer the funds to the beneficiary and spending funds on the charity single."

Mr Kennell added: "It was the prosecution's case that he has behaved dishonestly throughout, even inviting the Rigby family to attend his events and posing publicly with a presentation cheque to imply he had donated the money."

Gardner had denied three counts of fraud. He was found guilty of two counts, but not guilty of the third which alleged he failed to keep a record of the amounts raised from fundraisers.

Gardner was granted bail until sentencing at Leicester Crown Court on Friday.

Mr Skinner told jurors: "The defendant appears to have an enthusiasm for promoting emerging music artists and it is the showcasing of these acts that has swallowed up most of the verifiable donations.

"In any event, the defendant used some of the money for a purpose that the original donors never intended and would not have approved if they had known.

"It appears that the defendant has spent all the money he received."

The court was also told the lorry driver put on truck-pull fundraiser events in 2013, 2014 and 2015 - two in Leicestershire and one in Gloucestershire - which were attended by thousands of people, including Fusilier Rigby's widow and  his son, Jack.

Giving evidence in the trial, Fusilier Rigby's widow Rebecca, said: "There were talks of climbing Kilimanjaro, there were a number of things he (Gardner) wanted to do to raise funds for Jack.

"He spoke about large money - thousands - and it was as if it would set Jack up for life."

Mrs Rigby was asked: "Have you ever received any money from this defendant?" to which she replied: "Jack and myself have never received a penny from him."

After verdicts were reached, Steven Kennell from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said: "Gary Gardner's beneficiary, the trust set up for Fusilier Rigby's son, never received a penny from him.

"The CPS has presented clear-cut evidence to the court that Gardner did not pass any of the money he raised to the trust fund, and only made the local donations he did make when confronted about his activities.

"Whatever his intentions in starting his fundraising, the jury has agreed his activities constituted fraud, in failing to transfer the funds to the beneficiary and spending funds on the charity single."

Mr Kennell added: "It was the prosecution's case that he has behaved dishonestly throughout, even inviting the Rigby family to attend his events and posing publicly with a presentation cheque to imply he had donated the money."

Gardner had denied three counts of fraud. He was found guilty of two counts, but not guilty of the third which alleged he failed to keep a record of the amounts raised from fundraisers.

Gardner was granted bail until sentencing at Leicester Crown Court on Friday.

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