Harborough district man in court charged with fraud following truck-pull events claiming they were raising money in memory of Lee Rigby

An alleged charity fraudster pocketed funds raised for murdered Lee Rigby's son and splashed the money on recording a "flop" music single with his band, a court heard.

Tuesday, 4th September 2018, 9:55 am
Updated Tuesday, 4th September 2018, 7:21 pm
Gary Gardner outside court. Photo from News Team/SWNS

Gary Gardner, 56, is accused of conning well-wishers out of thousands of pounds and keeping the cash which had been meant for the family of the tragic fusilier.

He denies the charges and the trial is on-going.

A court heard he allegedly transferred the funds into his own personal bank account before spending the money on clearing his overdraft as well as "travel and expenses".

The HGV driver-turned music promoter organised truck-pull events between 2013 and 2015 in Medbourne and Market Harborough.

Jurors were told he raised at least £24,000 - but not a single penny had been donated to Fusilier Rigby's eight-year-old Jack.

He instead allegedly kept the money and spent some of it recording a single called "Miss You Machine" which turned out to be a "flop".

On Monday Gardner, of Medbourne, went on trial at Leicester Crown Court accused of three counts of fraud.

Drummer Rigby's widow Rebecca, 35, was called on as a witness and told the court she had not received any money raised by Gardner.

Opening the case, Samuel Skinner, prosecuting, told a jury of six men and six women: "In this case the defendant used the names of Private Lee Rigby and his son Jack Rigby to raise thousands of pounds from charitable donations.

"But the defendant never handed the money over to Jack Rigby.

"The defendant kept no accurate records of exactly how much money he raised on Jack Rigby's behalf.

"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. He has not given Jack Rigby, or his trust fund, any money.

Mr Skinner added: "He organised high profile events and raised considerable sums but was not transparent in his dealing with the money he raised.

"He transferred donated money from a charity bank account to his own personal bank account. He spent questionable amounts of donated money on "travel and expenses" for himself.

"Analysis of bank statements reveals that the defendant has raised at least £24,000.

"He publicly declared that he had given £3,000 of donated money to Jack Rigby. He has given no money whatsoever to Jack Rigby - only £4,000 has made its way to a charity."

The court heard villagers became suspicious of Gardner's actions following the truck-pull event in 2013.

He advertised the event with a poster which claimed: "Every penny raised goes to both local community and private Lee Rigby's son (Jack) trust fund." Rebecca Rigby and her family attended as guests of honour.

The jury heard Gardner then focused his efforts on a charity single, which he went ahead with despite receiving advice that it would not make cash.

He travelled to London to promote the single and even got some of Pte Rigby's former colleagues collecting money which he kept for himself the prosecution said.

Mr Skinner added: "He had received advice from the organiser of the Military Wives' Choir that the single would fail to make money, but he continued with his plan.

"He did not tell anyone when they donated that this was his plan, nor did he later tell anyone that he was using Jack Rigby's money, nor did he ask Rebecca Rigby's permission to use her son's money.

"Every donor asked by the police has agreed: if the defendant had asked their permission they would've refused.

"Shortly before the recording of the single took place in London - he transferred approximately £3,000 from the charity bank account into his personal account.

"Of importance is that this credit wiped out, to a considerable extent, a significant overdraft the defendant had been running up around this time.

"There was a launch event for the record to take place on Trafalgar Square on February 8, 2014.

"He recruited retired Royal Fusiliers - some of them knew Private Lee Rigby.

"He arranged for them to receive charity collecting tins and invited them to solicit donations for Jack Rigby from the crowd.

"We have no idea what the defendant did with this money or how much it came to - Jack Rigby has not seen any of it.

"As the defendant was aware would happen, the record was a flop."

Mrs Rigby told the court her family had not seen any of the money raised by the truck-pull event or charity single.

Giving evidence, she said: "I was put in touch with a man called Gary Gardner by Captain Andrew Harris and Major Carr. It was via emails and phone calls - there was quite a few.

"He wanted to arrange a truck-pull event in Lee's name to raise money for Jack.

"Gary invited us to Medbourne to the truck-pull event. I paid for my expenses - hotels and meals.

"It was so busy - there must have been hundreds maybe thousands of people. I thought the money was for Jack and a portion was for local charities. I have not received any money from the truck-pull event.

"He told me he wanted to dedicate a song to Lee to raise more funds for Jack. He never told me how he would get the money to produce the single.

"I wouldn't have allowed it if I knew the money was coming from the truck-pull event.

"I have not received any money from the charity single. I contacted him about the money not long after the single was launched. I contacted him by phone, message and email. I tried a fair few times to contact him.

"We had conversations about the money in the past and he just said it would be as much as thousands - as if it was going to set Jack up for life."

The trial continues.