Thieving uncle ordered to pay back just �1 to disabled niece

A DISGRACED banker who stole �315,000 from his disabled niece’s charity fund has been ordered to pay back just �1.

A DISGRACED banker who stole �315,000 from his disabled niece’s charity fund has been ordered to pay back just �1.

Generous well-wishers from across the country donated hundreds of thousands of pounds into a trust for Ellie May Challis after the youngster had all her limbs amputated during a battle with meningitis in 2005.

Her banker uncle Darren Pease, 33, was made a trustee of the account due to his financial acumen but was jailed for four years in November when he admitted siphoning off �315,000 cash to pay for jewellery, expensive holidays and computer gadgets.

Pease was back in court this week after police went through his finances to check if he could repay any of the Little Clacton schoolgirl’s much-needed money.

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But it was revealed during the proceeds of crime hearing at Basildon Crown Court he had spent the lot and was ordered to pay a nominal �1.

Ellie May’s plight captured the hearts of the nation when photographs of her with her bandaged missing limbs were released by her parents Lisa, 36, and Paul, 46.

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She was just 16 months old when she contracted meningitis and was rushed to Oldchurch Hospital in Romford.

She suffered severe blood poisoning which shut down the blood flow to her arms and legs and was transferred to St Mary’s Hospital in London where medics feared she would not make it through the night.

The brave tot fought back from the grave and her inspirational story led the public to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds for her to be fitted with carbon fibre blades which allow her to run and keep up with her playmates at school.

Her mother Lisa, 36, from Little Clacton, has told how her brother-in-law’s stealing meant she could not buy Ellie May a motorised wheelchair for a beach trip.

She added: “This man robbed my little girl’s legs. She was devastated when she could not go on the sand with the other kids. I was disgusted with the sentence.

“She adored Darren. He’s a big man and he used to wrap his arms around her and give her great big cuddles.

“We’ve tried to shelter her from what has happened but she has overheard conversations and this morning she said to me ‘is Uncle Darren going to prison for stealing my money?’”

Pease’s estranged wife Jacqueline, 37, said her life had been ruined by her ex-husbands deceit and she and her two children have been evicted from their home in Romford after he took out bank loans in both their names.

She said: “He has got off lightly.

“I have lost everything because of what he has done. I had to sell my car to make ends meet. Most days we can only afford to have cereal for dinner while he gets three square meals a day in prison.

“The only good thing to come out of this is that I can hold my head up high and say I never knew anything about what he was doing and I have not benefited from what he has done.

“Now I just want to try to rebuild my life and look to the future.”

Pease, from Dagenham, initially took some money from the trust fund to pay a credit card bill and intended to repay the cash but his stealing spiralled out of control.

He helped himself to Ellie May’s money between 2005 and 2008 until he turned himself into police in June last year after the family discovered there was just �239 left in the fund.

The court also heard Pease, a father-of-two, had taken �65,000 from the life savings of his grandmother, Joyce Pease, who lives in sheltered accommodation.

Pease admitted 49 counts of fraud and obtaining money by deception and was jailed for four years. The bank has since refunded the entire amount back to Ellie May’s family.

Pease, a risk manager for Lloyds – the same bank which held the fund for Ellie May – told his former wife Jacqueline that he was earning up to �70,000 to explain his lavish spending but in reality was earning half of that amount.

He bought three computers, furniture, a home cinema system, expensive music studio equipment and took his family on holiday to Disneyland with Ellie May’s family, brazenly using her donated cash to pay for it.

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