Ex-Sick Kids charity boss’ fraud trial delayed

Elaine McGonigle ran the New Pyjamas campaign. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Elaine McGonigle ran the New Pyjamas campaign. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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THE fraud trial of a former director of a major Sick Kids fundraising campaign has been delayed until next year while she recovers from a stroke.

Elaine McGonigle, who ran the New Pyjamas initiative set up to raise £15 million for a new hospital, denies wrongly claiming £1855 in expenses over 18 months.

A sheriff heard yesterday that she was not well enough to appear before the court and refused a bid by prosecutors to continue in her absence.

McGonigle, 51, from Errol in Perthshire, was suspended by the Sick Kids Friends Foundation in 2010 amid concerns about the amount of money that was being raised.

In January 2011, the police began an inquiry into the working of the charity and, on July 8 that year, McGonigle was charged with alleged fraud relating to her expenses.

She appeared at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on petition in August 2011 and the case was later reduced to a summary complaint in 2012 when McGonigle pleaded not guilty to 13 charges of claiming fraudulent expenses between September 22, 2008, and March 5, 2010.

After numerous hearings and adjournments and changes in solicitors, her trial began on June 2, 2014.

McGonigle is alleged to have fraudulently charged for food, travel and accommodation in meeting with people in order to raise funds for the charity.

The Crown alleges that she had not met with the persons she claimed to have and had charged for flights to London on business when she used the bookings for holidays.

Witnesses, whom she claimed expenses for meeting, included former First Minister Jack McConnell, businessman Nick Kuenssberg, Donald McDonald of the McDonald Hotel Group, Vera Weisfeld of the What Everyone Wants group, and 
multi-millionaire Ann Gloag.

All denied meeting McGonigle when she claimed they had.

The trial before Sheriff Douglas Allan was interrupted on a number of occasions due to McGonigle suffering from migraine and finally a stroke.

Yesterday, defence solicitor Gary Foulis told Sheriff Allan that her specialist said there had been very little change in her condition and she was not fit to take part in the proceedings.

The specialist added that, in his opinion, McGonigle would suffer long-term difficulties and the risk of another stroke.

Sheriff Allan ruled that another hearing should take place in February next year.

newsen@edinburghnews.com