The editor of the Yorkshire Post has said the success of a fundraiser for a 91-year-old who was conned out of his life savings has shown how local newspapers and readers are together “worth their weight in gold”.
More than 480 readers helped the JPI Media-owned daily to raise £15,000 in just 24 hours after elderly Yorkshireman John Thompson (pictured, far left) was targeted by fraudsters.
Editor James Mitchinson (pictured, far right) launched the fundraiser after crime correspondent Lucy Leeson’s story about Thompson falling prey to a phone scam where someone pretended to be his bank manager.
Thompson, a former police officer, was refused a refund by his bank because he transferred the money out himself, according to Leeson’s report, which was published on Wednesday.
Donations included £1,000 from TV chef James Martin and £5,000 from Leave.EU funder Arron Banks, who tweeted: “Great campaign and well done for highlighting.”
Banks later agreed with a post that the fundraiser “shows local media for what it can do” and shared the link to donate on the official Leave.EU campaign Twitter page.
Other donors appear to include Sky News presenter Sarah-Jane Mee and special correspondent Alex Crawford as well as TV presenter Davina McCall alongside hundreds of Yorkshire Post readers.
Mitchinson said: “It isn’t going too far to say I am genuinely emotional about what we’ve managed to turn this into.
“It just goes to show, local newspapers and their readers – working together – are worth their weight in gold.”
He added that he “felt I needed to at least try to prove to [Thompson] that there are good people in the world, Yorkshire probably more so than anywhere else…” Mitchinson said.
Mitchinson and Leeson visited Thompson this morning, and the pensioner and his wife said they both “broke down and wept” when they read how quickly the fundraiser had recouped their savings.
Leeson (pictured, second left), who kicked off the fundraiser herself with a £5 donation, told Press Gazette: “I’m so happy. I’m just really overjoyed.
“I think obviously as a journalist you see all the good and the bad in people and this restores your faith and it makes you proud as well that you can achieve something good through our platforms in the media.”
Leeson, who has been at the Yorkshire Post since April after five years with the Hull Daily Mail, added: “I think it shows just how incredibly important the local media is.
“John would probably have never got his money back if it wasn’t for what we had created and also it allows us to tell his story and get that message out there to people.
“He said if it stops it happening to one more person it’s worth it, and he wouldn’t have been able to do that without the paper.”
Mitchinson has said he plans to close the Just Giving page on Sunday night as it has met its target. All the money raised above what the Thompsons lost will be given to charity.
Picture: Yorkshire Post