Joshua's Wish children's holiday charity closes

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Media captionSarah Cornelius-Price set up the charity just before her son, Joshua, seven, died from cancer in 1998

The charity Joshua's Wish has been closed, leaving over 60 young people thousands of pounds out of pocket.

They had letters saying an Australia trip was cancelled but airline agents say flight tickets are still valid.

Each had raised £3,000 for the charity, which was founded in Wales and formerly known as The Joshua Foundation.

In a tweet, the organisation's founder Sarah Cornelius-Price said: "I am unable to comment on the closure of Joshua's Wish."

A BBC Wales investigation earlier this year found it owed up to £400,000 to HM Revenue and Customs.

When the charity was founded it offered trips, holidays and experiences for sick young people.

The BBC reported in January that that the HMRC debt had been on The Joshua Foundation's accounts since about 2003/04.

Mrs Cornelius-Price said in January that the debt was from mistakenly claimed gift aid.

A former winner of the Welsh Woman of the Year award, Mrs Cornelius-Price also said in January that the charity's subsequent gift aid claims were being retained by HMRC towards offsetting the debt.

'Major fundraising activity'

She said at the time that she hoped soon to settle the outstanding debt.

Despite concerns about the trip to Australia, the agent for the airline said flight tickets were still valid - although accommodation has been lost.

Emerald Global Limited is calling on passengers to get in touch on 020 7734 1000 so e-tickets can be sent out.

"We have only been involved with the airline tickets and not any other services related to this travel," said Emerald in a statement.

Graham Down, a director of Burton Sweet Corporate Recovery in Bristol, confirmed that Joshua's Wish has ceased operating because of its liabilities.

He was appointed as an insolvency practitioner on Tuesday night by Mrs Cornelius-Smith.

Mr Down said the level of the charity's liabilities had yet to be established.

He said: "We are aware of a major fundraising activity kicking off in Australia at the end of June. We are trying to establish the position but it is unlikely that it will go ahead."

Mr Down will meet the charity's trustees in Cardiff on Wednesday night.

The trustees can then make a court application for the charity to be wound up, and Mr Down would then become the liquidator.

Graham Brill, from Merthyr Tydfil, said his 18-year-old daughter had been due to go to Australia with Joshua's Wish.

He said she had been going to medical school in September to work in the oncology department at a hospital in Melbourne.

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Media captionGraham Down, appointed as an insolvency practitioner following the closure of Joshua's Wish, tells BBC Wales Today the charity was not able to meet its debts

He said the family had lost about £4,000. His daughter had to raise £3,000 for the trip and another £1,000 or so for visas, uniforms and other extras.

He said: "My daughter worked really hard to raise that money. It leaves a nasty taste in the mouth and I fear it will affect other charities - people will think twice about helping."

Susan Adcock, from Nottingham, whose 18-year-old daughter Jessica was supposed to go to Australia, said she had been "totally in the dark" about the problems until receiving the letter.

"I do think if there was an issue, the foundation should have informed everybody who was taking part in this trip," she said.

'Vile untrue tweets'

The Charity Commission said: "The commission has been informed that the trustees of Joshua's Wish have decided to wind up the charity and we understand that insolvency practitioners have been appointed.

"We are acutely aware that some of the charity's supporters are concerned about the charity winding up and we understand their complaint and disappointment.

"We are advising that they contact the appointed insolvency practitioners."

In her tweet on Wednesday, Mrs Cornelius-Price said: "I can say that my family and I are very upset and vile untrue tweets don't help!

"The insolvency people are the only ones who can help."

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