Page last updated at 14:23 GMT, Monday, 7 April 2008 15:23 UK

Air ambulance cash thief jailed

Dorset & Somerset Air Ambulance
The air ambulance trusts are now responsible for fund-raising themselves

A businessman from Cornwall who pocketed public donations for two air ambulance charities has been jailed for three years at Plymouth Crown Court.

Leigh Douglas Windsor, of Kerns Park, Quethiock, had earlier admitted stealing 273,000 through his company Leigh Windsor Promotions.

The donations were for the Wales Air Ambulance Trust and the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance Trust.

Robert Edwards, a manager for Windsor's firm, was given a suspended sentence.

Edwards, 57, of Chapeldown Road, Torpoint, Cornwall, had admitted one charge of false accounting.

The effect of what you did on future giving to those charities, one can only speculate
Judge Francis Gilbert

He was given a one-year sentence, suspended for two years, and ordered to pay 1,000 in costs.

Judge Francis Gilbert told Edwards he had taken into account the fact that Edwards had made no financial gain and had limited involvement in the running of the charities.

Windsor was sentenced to three years for two charges of theft to run concurrently. Application for costs will be heard at a later date.

Sentencing Windsor, Judge Gilbert told him: "The effect of what you did on future giving to those charities, one can only speculate."

Leigh Windsor Promotions ran fund-raising lotteries for nine air ambulance trusts located across the country.

However, the Plymouth jury was told money raised by street canvassers from the public had gone into company expenses instead of being passed on to the good causes.

Windsor admitted two charges of theft, of 63,000 from the Dorset and Somerset trust and 210,000 from the Welsh trust, between September 2002 and July 2004.

'Complex case'

Det Con David Buckley said Windsor and Edwards had abused the trust of people who were supporting life-saving charities.

He said it was a very complex case which had taken four years to bring to court. Officers travelled across the UK, collecting 42 boxes of evidence and using up more than a year's budget for forensic accounting.

"However, hopefully this sends out the right message to people who have the trust of charities that they will go to prison if they start stealing money from them," he said.

Bob Palmer, the chair of Wales Air Ambulance Trust, said he was relieved justice had been done.

"Now it is finally over we can move forward and continue with the essential work of saving lives," he added.

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