Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Lying 'collector' given jail term for stealing from Help for Heroes charity

Debbie Campbell is appealing her  jail sentence
Debbie Campbell is appealing her jail sentence

A lying single mother-of-four helped herself to public donations from Help for Heroes charity boxes, a court has heard.

Coleraine woman Debbie Campbell had claimed that the collection boxes had twice been stolen from her car.

She even blamed her children after police found two collection boxes in her home.

But a judge who sentenced the 33-year-old blonde to six months yesterday told her he didn't accept her claims for one moment.

Coleraine Magistrates Court heard that Campbell, from Redthorn Court in the Co Londonderry town, had set herself up as a collector for Help for Heroes – but instead pocketed donations from April 2012 to July 2013.

The charity helps rehabilitate wounded soldiers and assists their families.

Because the donations were anonymous the full amount stolen by Campbell will probably never be known.

She even claimed that someone had impersonated her after Help for Heroes collection boxes went missing or were stolen from her car on two occasions.

However, District Judge Liam McNally saw through Campbell's lies and tears and convicted her on the charges.

He told her that she had aggravated her crimes by cheating those who had readily handed over their "hard-earned money" which she then used "to line your own pockets".

Campbell claimed that the first consignment of merchandise, including collection boxes, sent by the charity never arrived, although Help for Heroes had a delivery record which showed it had been signed for by a 'K Walters'.

Campbell denied knowing anyone of that name, adding that when the charity sent her a second consignment she put it into her car to stop her children getting at it.

A local shopkeeper who knew Campbell had given evidence that she had left two collection boxes in his store and emptied them each month.

Campbell claimed she only put one collection box in the shop, "totally forgot about it" and never emptied it.

She said the consignment was stolen from the boot of her car when she had left it momentarily unlocked outside a shop.

But the judge described the shopkeeper's account as "truthful", and said it had been "copper-fastened" by evidence from a policewoman who had challenged Campbell about being a genuine charity collector.

The officer had said that Campbell – who was known to her – initially failed to produce any accreditation.

However, Campbell said it couldn't have been her, as she was miles away staying with her father and had no car to drive to Coleraine.

But she accepted that police did find two collection boxes in her home.

Campbell said her children had taken them before she had had a chance to put them in the boot of her vehicle.

She was released on her own bail of £500 while she appeals her sentence.

FACTFILE

Debbie Campbell was convicted of:

* Stealing more than £200 worth of Help for Heroes merchandise.

* Duping a Coleraine shopkeeper into allowing her to put collection boxes in his store.

* Five specimen charges of stealing cash from boxes.

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