Ex-Sick Kids hospital charity boss’ fraud trial is put on hold

Elaine McGonigle. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Elaine McGonigle. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

A FRAUD trial launched against the former boss of a major hospital fundraising campaign has been put on ice – two years after it started.

Elaine McGonigle, who was the director of the New Pyjamas charity set up to raise £15 million for the new Sick Kids, was accused of claiming almost £2000 in fake expenses.

But the 52-year-old’s trial was yesterday deserted for the time being more than a year after she suffered a stroke which left her in hospital.

McGonigle, 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.

A police inquiry was launched the following January, before she appeared in court charged with fraud seven months later.

In 2012, McGonigle pleaded not guilty to obtaining £1855 by 13 charges of claiming fraudulent expenses between September 22, 2008, and March 5, 2010.

She was alleged to have fraudulently charged for food, travel and accommodation for meetings with high-profile names. It was also claimed she claimed for flights to London on business when she used the bookings for holidays.

Witnesses who gave evidence at Edinburgh Sheriff Court included First Minister Jack McConnell, businessman Nick Kuenssberg, head of the McDonald Hotel Group Donald McDonald, Vera Weisfeld of the What Everyone Woman Wants group and multi-millionaire Ann Gloag.

All of them ever denied meeting McGonigle, who was hospitalised early in 2015 after suffering a stroke.

In August last year, a report by the specialist treating her said she was not fit to take part in a trial.

The case was continued until February his year, when Fiscal Depute Graham Fraser told Sheriff Douglas Allan that the specialist reported that McGonigle “was still suffering significant problems” and advised that she would be “vulnerable” in court.

Mr Fraser said: “The real concern we have is, is it possible for a patient to manipulate the results of the tests or are the tests capable of manipulation?”

The Crown, he added, had identified two specialists in this field and asked for a report from them despite defence solicitor Gary Foulis opposing the motion.

Sheriff Allan ordered another hearing for April 15, when Fiscal Depute Liz Paton asked for a further three-week delay to obtain a report from other specialists.

Mr Foulis again opposed the Crown’s request, pointing out that no evidence had been heard for 15 months.

Sheriff Allan “reluctantly” agreed to the continuation and ordered a procedural hearing for yesterday, when Ms Paton told Sheriff Allan that the Crown had been unable to secure the services of a specialist and were asking that the case be deserted.

Sheriff Allan said that given the circumstances and the medical reports he agreed with the prosecution’s request.

The £150 million new Sick Kids hospital is due to open on the site of the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary in Little France next year. The state-of-the-art facility will be built with private cash but, unlike the controversial ERI deal, the building will eventually pass into public hands.