Hundreds still owed refunds after organiser of 'disastrous' Winter Wonderland goes bust
Hundreds of customers still awaiting refunds following a disastrous Winter Wonderland experience before Christmas have been further outraged after the organiser went bankrupt.
Event planner Emma Jane McKnight aka Burrow was declared bankrupt at the High Court in Belfast on Monday after petitioning the order herself.
Community worker Karen Worall is among hundreds of customers who have been left furious by the failure of a promised refund to materialise.
She said young children who use the Rathgill Community Association centre are likely to lose £254.
"We take children away on a trip every Christmas and we picked this event because it was local," she said.
"The fact that it promised so much and was on our doorstep led us to make a booking in August - we thought we were saving money which could go back into our community."
Mrs Worall became concerned after hundreds of outraged customers took to social media to complain about the disastrous festive event which was held at the Clandeboye Estate in Bangor.
"We weren't due to go until the Monday, but we were alarmed by the amount of complaints we were reading and had to go ourselves and check it out on the Sunday," Karen said.
"My husband and I thought it couldn't possibly be that bad, but we were horrified when we arrived. The place was empty, the ice rink and bouncy castle were both pathetic and children were crying."
Karen had already decided against proceeding with the trip before Winter Wonderland NI axed the event and promised hundreds of disappointed customers a refund after they flocked to social media to voice their concerns.
On December 18, Ms McKnight claimed that 97% of had refunds been completed but complaints began piling up on Winter Wonderland - Refund Advice's Facebook page.
Karen, who paid Emma directly by Bacs, said she is disappointed that the organiser has made no effort to return her calls.
"I'm angry and very disappointed by the whole thing," she said.
"The kids were all disappointed as well as they had really been looking forward to it.
"I don't know if Bacs payments are protected, but I'm not holding out much hope."
Following the bankruptcy proceedings, Winter Wonderland NI issued a statement which said: "We apologise for the inconvenience caused and the delay in responding to individual cases."
It encouraged concerned customers to contact their card issuers or PayPal to see if they are protected and to direct further queries to the Insolvency Service in Belfast.
But other customers who were left underwhelmed by the event have complained that credit card companies are refusing to pay out because customers attended the venue.
Just before Christmas Emma issued an appeal for charities to take nearly 2,500 presents off her hands indicating that she had anticipated at least that number of visitors during the days which were cancelled.
A spokesperson for the Department for the Economy said the Official Receiver's "complex" investigation is at a preliminary stage and could take some time to complete.
They added: "Accordingly, the total number of creditors involved in this case and the total value of any deficiency has not yet been fully ascertained."