Wednesday, February 13, 2013
A COUPLE who organised a charity ghost hunt in aid of Hinchingbrooke Hospital’s special care baby unit (SCBU) pocketed the money they raised.
Julia Harriss, 32, and husband Daniel, 31, both of Butts Close, Somersham, yesterday (Tuesday) apologised for stealing the money that had been promised to the Huntingdon-based unit, which is in need of refurbishment.
They have been ordered to pay the hospital almost £1,000 in compensation after each pleaded guilty to theft at Huntingdon Law Courts last week.
The court heard how the couple, who ran ghost-hunting business Fenland Paranormal Investigations from their home, had promoted their fundraiser at Hinchingbrooke House in The Hunts Post last June – explaining how SCBU had cared for their son when he was born.
This newspaper helped with the police investigation, providing officers with some vital evidence, when it became clear the money had disappeared.
Guests had paid £30 a ticket for the ghost tour, which took place in August, and were also encouraged to bring more money to the event to buy raffle tickets.
Magistrates sitting on Monday (February 4) were told a police investigation was launched after several people tried to contact the couple to find out how much had been raised but were unable to get hold of them. Members of the public also contacted Hinchingbrooke Hospital which confirmed that no money had been received from the Harrisses.
A Facebook page promoting the event as a charity fundraiser was also deleted.
The couple admitted in court that they had kept the money.
Julia Harriss told The Hunts Post: “We would just like to say how very sorry we are for what happened.”
She said the couple’s business had now ceased trading.
Both the Harrisses were given 24-month conditional discharges and were each ordered to pay £85 costs and a £15 victim surcharge. They were also ordered to pay £916 compensation to Hinchingbrooke.
DC Suzanne Pickard said: “This was a deceitful and dishonest crime in which the Harrisses duped people into thinking they were donating to charity. I’m glad the hospital has been given some compensation and I hope it will deter people from seeking to profit by dishonestly claiming to be collecting for charity.”
A hospital spokesman added: “I am sure all who work tirelessly as volunteers to support us are delighted with this verdict. Fortunately such cases are very rare and we sincerely hope this one will not deter people from supporting worthwhile causes.”