Fundraiser denies using Lee Rigby donations to clear overdraft

Gary Gardner, 56, accused of fraud in connection with a fund-raiser for Fusilier Lee Rigby's young son, outside Leicester Crown Court, Leicester. Photo credit: Aaron Chown PA Wire
Gary Gardner, 56, accused of fraud in connection with a fund-raiser for Fusilier Lee Rigby's young son, outside Leicester Crown Court, Leicester. Photo credit: Aaron Chown PA Wire

A fundraiser accused of pocketing cash collected for the son of murdered soldier Lee Rigby denied making a payment to "prop up" his own overdrawn bank account, a jury has heard.

Gary Gardner told police in an interview in 2016 that the £431 transfer from a Nationwide treasurer's trust account was made to cover an expense during his efforts to help four different charities.

A trial has been told that the alleged fraudster spent up to £5,000 donated by the public for Jack Rigby on producing a charity music single which only raised £200.

On the fifth day of the hearing at Leicester Crown Court, prosecutor Sam Skinner read out transcripts of a police interview conducted with Gardner at the city's Euston Street police station in February 2016.

In the interview, Gardner told officers that stage-hire costs, event insurance and others expenses meant a charity event in his home village of Medbourne, Leicestershire, had raised a total of £3,000.

Asked why he had set up the Nationwide account, Gardner told police: "Because that's the way you do things properly, I didn't want to pay it into my own account."

One of two interviewing officers then put it to Gardner that he was already £600 overdrawn when £431 was taken out of the trust account.

Gardner responded: "I have drawn it from there-to-there and paid it, obviously, out of mine. It's something I am paying out to somebody.

"I used my account to pay things. There is no way in this world that I have done anything to prop up my accounts or anything.

"There is obviously a reason for the £431, it's something that I have paid."

During the interview Gardner also said he had spent between £4,000 and £5,000 on producing a charity track to aid Jack Rigby, whose father was murdered in London in 2013.

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.

Jurors have heard claims 56-year-old 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 lorry driver put on three truck-pull events in 2013, 2014 and 2015 in Medbourne and also in Market Harborough - fundraisers which were attended by thousands of people, including Fusilier Rigby's widow Rebecca and his son.

Gardner, of Old Holt Road, Medbourne, denies three counts of fraud.