Saturday, 12 March 2011

Charity fraud?

Back in November I wrote a blog post about Matthew Brown, an ex-military helicopter pilot who was walking around the coast of Britain for charity. The claim was that he had already raised £500,000 for Help for Heroes, and was aiming for a 9,500 mile walk.

It sounded like an incredible objective and the sum raised seemed rather large, especially so early on in his trip. However I know of at least one other coastal walker who has raised similar sums, and the charity is particularly popular at the moment, so it was certainly within the bounds of possibility. Tonight I found this article on the BBC website, which makes it look as though the whole thing was one gigantic fraud. Even his claim of having served as a pilot in Afghanistan and Iraq appears to have been a particularly unsophisticated lie.

Later in November he was sentenced to 32 weeks in jail for pretending to be a doctor in Scarborough in order to gain free hotel accommodation. It was not the first time that he had been jailed for such a deception. Perversely, it was he publicity for his coastal walk that proved his downfall - a member of the hotel staff saw his picture in the paper and alerted the police.

There is much to be said about this: firstly, if it is a fraud, then using the Help for Heroes name makes it doubly sickening. Secondly, it makes it all the harder for others who are attempting to do a similar thing to raise money for charity; I had some doubt cast on my own walk whilst I was doing it, and I am glad that I documented it so comprehensively (on average I took three photos a mile, which would be hard to fake). Thirdly, it casts all charity fundraising in a bad light.

But more importantly, are his actions a sign of madness or nastiness? Should I feel hatred for someone who is so out of kilter with the norms of society, or sorry for him? What has happened to make him perform such desperate acts?

I have always taken the entries on my website in good faith, despite a few doubts about another recent entrant into the list of coastal walkers. Perhaps I should try to be slightly more sceptical and try to verify first in future. Then again, that is not really the purpose of the list.


The Odyssee said...

It's a difficult one David and it can make us bitter and twisted.

My philosophy on people is that their are more better people out there than their are bad. So i give everyone the benefit of the doubt.
If it turns out that they are nasty pieces of work then hopefully being street wise, no real harm will have been done to me or the family.
It has only happened to me once in 57 yrs that i mis judged somebody, so not bad really.

Ted Richards said...

I see the guy has just been jailed for six months. I'm left wondering how much is any of the coastline he actually walked. Our suspicion should have beeen arousded when he claimed his milage was 11,000 miles. That's a lot however your walk around the coast!