A woman has been jailed for 10 months after stealing the charity fund of a dying boy
Sharlene McNeilly had known Alex Kyrillou since childhood and set up a fundraising page after his son Oliver was diagnosed with a brain tumour.
For seven months family, friends and strangers paid a total of £2,123.54 into an account set up by McNeilly to help the family.
But the gambling addict used the sick nine-year-old boy as a “cash cow” and “frittered” away the money playing online bingo, a court heard.
Oliver died last year, eight months after his diagnosis.
Mr Kyrillou asked McNeilly for the money to pay for the funeral, but she claimed there was a hold up caused by Go Fund Me.
The father contacted the website to be told all the money had been taken out of the account.
Sharlene McNeilly had known Alex Kyrillou since childhood
The police were called and McNeilly confessed to taking it.
The death of my son has been used as her cash cow
Mr Kyrillou, from Christchurch, Dorset, had a taxi firm but closed it when Oliver was diagnosed so he and wife Amy could be at his bedside.
Mother-of-three McNeilly, 30, from the same town, spent all her winnings on gifts for her own family and even got married while awaiting sentence after pleading guilty to theft, Bournemouth Crown Court heard Mr Kyrillou, 32, said her actions were “heartbreaking”, describing how his other son Harry, eight, offered his piggy bank to buy the family food.
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Oliver died last year, eight months after his diagnosis
He said: “We trusted Sharlene to manage the page, all of our attention was on Oliver.
When I realised Sharlene had stolen from us, money we were relying on and so desperately needed, I felt betrayed and angry that a friend could do that when we were at our most vulnerable.
“The death of my son has been used as her cash cow.”
Simon Edwards, prosecuting, said: “She continued gambling with the money after Oliver died. She told police her intention was to raise £3,000 and collected sums from the public. She simply frittered it away.”
Alex Kyrillou and wife Amy
Rufus Taylor, defending, said: “Unfortunately she was, and remains, in the grip of this addiction and thought she could increase the fund.
“She started gambling it and continued until it was all gone.”
Judge Jonathan Fuller said: “There was a considerable financial struggle within the family as they sought to be by Oliver’s bedside.
“People gave generously to that site believing it was going to the cause – but none did.”