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Man accused of stealing thousands from charity fund to murdered Lee Rigbys son

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A charity fraudster stole funds raised for murdered Lee Rigbys son and splashing the money on recording a flop music single with his band, a court heard.

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

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

Charity fundraiser Gary Gardner arriving at Leicester Crown Court who claimed he was raising money for the son of murdered fusilier Lee Rigby but spent profits on meals, hotels and a music single he knew would be a "flop", the court heard. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday September 3, 2018. Jurors heard how Gary Gardner raised at least ?24,000 from various events but only ?4,000 made its way to any charity because of his "enthusiasm for promoting emerging music artists". The 56-year-old denies three counts of fraud. See PA story COURTS Gardner. Photo credit should read: Phil Barnett/PA Wire

Charity fundraiser Gary Gardner arriving at Leicester Crown Court (Picture: PA)

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

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

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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.

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

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

She said: I was put in touch with a man called Gary Gardner by Captain Andrew Harris and Major Carr.

Undated family handout file photo of Lee Rigby. Charity fundraiser Gary Gardner claimed he was raising money for the son of the murdered fusilier but spent profits on meals, hotels and a music single he knew would be a "flop", Leicester Crown Court heard. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday September 3, 2018. Jurors heard how Gardner raised at least ?24,000 from various events but only ?4,000 made its way to any charity because of his "enthusiasm for promoting emerging music artists". The 56-year-old denies three counts of fraud. See PA story COURTS Gardner. Photo credit should read: Family Handout/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

Jack was two when his dad was killed in an attack outside Woolwich Barracks (Picture: PA)

He wanted to arrange a truck-pull event in Lees 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.

She continued: 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 wouldnt 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.

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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.

General view of Leicester Crown Court, Leicester.

Gardner is on trial at Leicester Crown Court (Picture: PA)

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 Rigbys behalf.

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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.

Nevertheless, the defendant declared publicly in late 2013 that he donated £3,000 to Jack Rigby – this was untrue.

The defendant set out with the publicly declared aim of raising money on behalf of Jack Rigby.

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.

Charity fundraiser Gary Gardner arriving at Leicester Crown Court who claimed he was raising money for the son of murdered fusilier Lee Rigby but spent profits on meals, hotels and a music single he knew would be a "flop", the court heard. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday September 3, 2018. Jurors heard how Gary Gardner raised at least ?24,000 from various events but only ?4,000 made its way to any charity because of his "enthusiasm for promoting emerging music artists". The 56-year-old denies three counts of fraud. See PA story COURTS Gardner. Photo credit should read: Phil Barnett/PA Wire

Gardner has denied all three charges (Picture: PA)

The first charge was that, between May 2013 and February 2016, he abused his position as a trustee of money charitably donated in aid of Jack, by failing to account for the total monies donated.

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The second charge was that, between May 2013 and February 2014, he abused his position as a trustee of money donated in aid of Jack, by using the money to pay for the production of a music single.

The third charge was that between May 2013 and February 2016 he abused his position by failing to transfer any donated money to Jack.

Mr Sinner continued: 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 payments that the defendant did make to charity may be seen as token payments made under pressure to avoid any further investigation into his affairs.

He used donated money to finance a charity music single without the permission of the donors.

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