A hospice boss whose arrest cost the charity £100,000 in lost donations is facing jail after he admitted a long-running fraud.
Graham Leggatt-Chidgey, 62, pleaded guilty to abusing his position as chief executive of Butterwick Hospice by using its credit card for his personal expenditure over nearly eight years.
He had previously denied all the charges against him, but changed his plea on the day his trial at Teesside Crown Court was due to begin.
Granting him bail, Judge Sean Morris told him: “Don’t read into it that this is anything other than a custodial sentence.
“This gives you time to get your affairs in order.”
As he left court, Leggatt-Chidgey refused to answer reporters’ questions about hospice volunteers now being abused on the streets and called thieves by people angry at his fraud.
The hospice – which has facilities in Stockton-on-Tees, Bishop Auckland and Weardale – was set up by Mary Butterwick in 1984 with her own money from the sale of her house in memory of her husband John after he died from cancer.
Leggatt-Chidgey, who lived near Barnard Castle, County Durham, was chief executive for 21 years and his double-barrelled name, military ties and wealthy demeanour led staff to think he had independent means.
But instead, he was a “skilled fraudster” who has badly damaged the hospice’s reputation, it was said.
Since he was arrested last year, the charity, which needs £4m a year, believed its donations were down by £100,000.
Outside court, Judith Hunter, chair of the trustees, said: “The Butterwick Hospice has been the victim of a terrible crime committed by one individual.
“We know that people have lost faith and confidence in the hospice, however I’m glad the story is now out there for people to hear.
“I ask people to get behind the hospice, it’s really important we continue with the legacy Mary Butterwick introduced many decades ago.”
He will be sentenced for a single count of fraud on June 11. The prosecution will offer no evidence on one charge and another will lie on file.