Lorry driver who pocketed cash raised for Lee Rigby’s son found guilty of fraud

A lorry driver who pocketed cash raised for slain soldier Lee Rigby’s son has been found guilty of fraud.

Fundraiser Gary Gardner was convicted on two counts at Leicester Crown Court.

The 56-year-old invited Lee Rigby’s widow Rebecca and son Jack to be guests of honour at truck-pull fundraisers.

And he vowed to raise enough to set Jack "up for life" with high-profile events, including one at which ex-Fusiliers went round with tins collecting from crowds.

A jury heard he did raise at least £24,000 – but that none was ever given to Jack or his trust fund.

The 56-year-old was cleared of a third count of fraud which alleged he failed to keep a record of the amounts raised from fundraisers.

Instead of giving the money to eight-year-old Jack, Gardner spent cash on a music single in a bid to be a top producer, paid off his overdraft and blew more on expenses.

During the trial, Samuel Skinner, prosecuting, told Leicester crown court: "The defendant declared publicly that he donated £3,000 to Jack Rigby. That was untrue."

Rebecca, 34, told jurors that neither she nor Jack, now eight, "ever received a penny" from Gardner after he finally stopped answering calls or emails.

Gardner held a Trafalgar Square launch event for the charity single Miss You Machine in memory of Lee, 25, who was murdered near Woolwich Barracks in London in 2013.

The lorry driver denied it was a business exercise after admitting spending £1,000 a day on a London recording studio and £3,000 on staging the launch event which had support acts such as Boney M.

Gardner also said allegations he transferred money from a trust account into his own account to pay off his overdraft were not true.

The court was told how the defendant and a studio producer in Exeter came up with the idea for the "world’s biggest download" for the single – which eventually only raised "a few hundred pounds".

During a police interview in 2016 Gardner said he had spent between £4,000 and £5,000 on producing the charity track to aid Jack Rigby.

Claiming to have pulled in just over £200 from the single after "bureaucrats" told the press to back away "because it looked political", Gardner said copies of the recording ended up being given away.

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In a separate interview with police, the trucker told officers: "At the end of the day… if I were this fraudster, don’t you think my accounts would be sitting pretty? I am in debt for these charities.

"I am quite passionate about it and what I do. The only thing I can say to you is yes, things are a mess, but that’s just the way I have done it.

"I am really deeply hurt that this is even happening."

He was granted conditional bail until sentencing at the same court on Friday.

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