A fundraiser has been sentenced to two and a half years in jail after pocketing cash that was collected as charity for the toddler son of murdered British soldier, Lee Rigby.
Gary Gardner, 56, spent upward of £5,000 of the money producing a charity music single with his band that he allegedly knew would be a "flop." He then blew thousands of pounds on a luxury launch event at London's Trafalgar Square in 2014 to promote the single, which in the end raised a meagre £200.
Gardner claimed that the poor turnout was due to "atrocious" weather.
However he also allegedly spent a chunk of the £24,000 raised from well-wishers on clearing his own personal depts.
Lee Rigby's widow wife, Rebecca, told the courts that Mr Gardner had approached her after her husband's murder, saying that he wanted to raise money for her and little Jack.
Subsequently, Gardner held a number of charity events spanning from 2013-2015, which were, according to reports, attended by thousands of people who donated money to the cause.
However, during her court appearance, Mrs Rigby said that she and her son had "never received a penny" from Gardner.
Gary Gardner, who organised Charity Truck Pull events in Market Harborough & Medbourne, in aid of the young son of murdered soldier Lee Rigby, found guilty of fraud — more on Hfm News pic.twitter.com/yUaCnwL7Vd— HFM News (@hfmnews) September 13, 2018
Prosecutor Samuel Skinner reportedly said that Gardner also used the charity cash that he'd raised for travel expenses around the UK.
Mr Skinner is quoted as saying that, "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."
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After the court had cast its verdict, Stephen Kennell from the Crown Prosecution Service, said in a statement that Mr Gardner had, "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."
Fusilier Lee Rigby was murdered by al-Qaeda inspired jihadists outside of his army barracks in Woolwich, south-east London, in 2013. The attackers — Michael Adebolajo, 29, and Michael Adebowale, 22 — were sentenced to life in prison for the off duty soldier's murder. The pair drove a car into Private Rigby — who at the time was wearing a ‘Help for Heroes' charity T-shirt — and proceeded to attempt to decapitate him in broad daylight.