Leicester

Lee Rigby: Charity fundraiser Gary Gardner guilty of two fraud charges

Gary Gardner Image copyright PA
Image caption Gary Gardner was accused of using some of the money raised to release a "flop" charity song

A fundraiser has been convicted of two counts of fraud after pocketing cash collected for the young son of murdered soldier Lee Rigby.

Gary Gardner, 56, raised at least £24,000 but only £4,000 made its way to any organisation, a court heard.

Leicester Crown Court was told Gardner put on three truck-pull events attended by thousands, including Fusilier Rigby's widow Rebecca and son Jack.

Gardner, of Medbourne, Leicestershire, will be sentenced on Friday.

The jury heard Gardner, of Old Holt Road, spent up to £5,000 donated by the public for Jack on production of a charity music single which only raised £200.

He was cleared of one count of fraud which alleged he failed to keep a record of the amounts raised from fundraisers.

Image caption Lee Rigby was killed outside Woolwich Barracks in south-east London in May 2013

The court was told Gardner put on the truck-pull events in 2013, 2014 and 2015 in the Leicestershire villages of Medbourne and Market Harborough, and Stroud, Gloucestershire, which Mrs Rigby and Jack attended.

The soldier was killed outside Woolwich Barracks in south-east London five years ago, and two men have been jailed for his murder.

Shortly after his death, Gardner said he wanted to raise money for Jack and Medbourne village causes.

Giving evidence in the trial, Mrs Rigby said: "There were talks of climbing Kilimanjaro, there were a number of things [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."

Charity single flop

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."

Gardner, who denied three counts of fraud, claimed his charity single failed because of "atrocious weather" at the launch event in London's Trafalgar Square in February 2014.

He claimed he spent charity cash producing the single he knew would be a "flop" because of his "enthusiasm for promoting emerging music artists".

But the jury found him guilty of two counts after accepting he had used trust funds to "prop up" his overdrawn bank account.

After the verdict, Steven Kennell from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said 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".

Follow BBC East Midlands on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Send your story ideas to eastmidsnews@bbc.co.uk.

More on this story