Sick Kids charity boss ‘made false expense claims’

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A FORMER charity boss spent £548 on two flights to Bulgaria – the exact amount claimed on expenses for a series of business trips to London, a court was told.

Elaine McGonigle, 50, former director of the New Pyjamas Campaign charity set up to raise £15 million for a new Royal Hospital for Sick Children, is alleged to have made a series of false claims for items including flights, food and mileage.

She denies 13 charges of fraudulent expense claims between September 22, 2008, and March 5, 2010, amounting to £1855.

Edinburgh Sheriff Court was told the return flights were bought online using a credit card registered to McGonigle, from Errol, Perthshire, and sent to an e-mail address, also in her name.

The two economy tickets from London Heathrow to Sofia were booked on July 16, 2009 for a five-day trip the following month.

Witness Amritpal Heir, a credit card fraud investigator for British Airways, said the reservations were made under the passenger names of Elaine and Alan McGonigle.

The couple had checked in the day prior to travelling and the documentation suggested they had also made the return journey, she said.

Mrs Heir told the court the documents in front of her were standard British Airways booking forms and e-tickets for Eurotraveller-class journeys leaving London on August 7 and returning on August 11, 2009.

She added that a system generated e-mail is sent out to customers whenever a booking is made on the British Airways website.

But when asked about receipts for a series of four return flights between Edinburgh and London between August 28 and October 21, 2009, she said they were not from the airline.

Fiscal depute Pauline Shade asked whether the abbreviations ‘EDIN’ and ‘HTRW’ were recognised airport codes, to which she replied “No”.

She said: “The usual codes are EDI and LHR.”

Defence counsel Drew Mackenzie said that while the flights to Bulgaria had been sent to an account in McGonigle’s name, it did not necessarily mean she had made the booking.

The trial resumed yesterday after a series of delays including an adjournment in June after she complained of suffering from a migraine.

Amongst the allegations is that she charged £436 for three business flights between Edinburgh and Heathrow between July 24 and September 9, 2009, when it is claimed it was in fact for a trip to Majorca with her husband and son Lewis.

The court had also previously heard from witnesses such as former First Minister Jack McConnell and Donald MacDonald, chairman of the MacDonald Hotels Group, that they had never had any meetings with McGonigle about fundraising for the Sick Kids Hospital. The trial continues.