Charity founder drove ex-employee to suicide bid with harrasment campaign
A VETERAN charity chief drove a former employee to attempted suicide with a string of abusive e-mails, a court heard.
Well-known cardiac campaigner David Luckham bombarded the manic depressive with emails and set up websites and a false Facebook site, Plymouth magistrates heard.
Luckham, aged 73, the founder and secretary of Plymouth Heartbeat, also sent insulting emails to the man's mother, who was suffering from cancer, and letters to another woman.
Luckham, of Antony Gardens, Pennycross, admitted pursuing a course of conduct which amounted to the harassment of the trio between January 2011 and May this year.
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As reported in The Herald over the past week, his guilty plea follows Luckham surrendering to custody on Monday. He surrendered because police failed to arrest him after magistrates issued a warrant for his arrest last week.
Magistrates released him on unconditional bail for a probation report to be prepared on his background. He will return for sentence on September 12.
Julia Cox, for the Crown Prosecution Service, said the 40-year-old victim started as a volunteer with Plymouth Heartbeat and rose to be the salaried operations manager.
She said the man with bipolar disorder was also involved in another charity, called Just Fine, to help people with mental health difficulties.
Miss Cox said he raised the issue of "financial irregularities" at a Plymouth Heartbeat board meeting, but Luckham refused to discuss the matter and threw a clipboard at him. The court heard that Luckham had to be led away by other board members.
Miss Cox said the man was in the meantime convicted of common assault against his partner.
The Herald has agreed not to name the victims in the case.
She said Luckham then told police the manager had stolen thousands of pounds from Plymouth Heartbeat and Just Fine. The court heard that police investigated the claims and took no further action.
Miss Cox said Luckham sent 24 insulting emails from anonymous addresses to the manager, calling him a "scumbag" and "dirtbag". Luckham had also set up two websites, one called "Plymouth Criminals", with details of the man's criminal conviction.
Miss Cox said Luckham set up a fake Facebook site in the manager's name, repeating some of the allegations.
The man, who had been suspended at the time of his conviction, won a case of unfair dismissal brought against Plymouth Heartbeat at an employment tribunal.
Miss Cox said Luckham also sent an e-mail to the manager's mother, who was suffering from cancer. The court heard it purported to be from her two-year-old grandson, saying she would never see him again.
Luckham had also sent insulting letters to the employers of another woman who had volunteered for Plymouth Heartbeat, she said, adding that Luckham told police in interview that he wanted to push the manager "over the edge" and "play mind games".
Luckham, representing himself, said his actions were "inexcusable".
He apologised to the court for the inconvenience and said sorry to the victims.
Luckham said he had not realised he was breaking the law when he sent the first e-mails. He added that he stopped when warned by police, but continued his insults after the tribunal.
Luckham said the award of thousands of pounds almost bankrupted the charity – and then the manager insulted Luckham's wife.
Luckham, who has suffered seven heart attacks, co-founded Plymouth Heartbeat 20 years ago.
Luckham insisted after the case that he would stay on as secretary until his scheduled retirement in February.
He said: "This was a personal issue and nothing to do with the charity."
Barbara Luckham, his wife and the chairman of the charity, said: "I don't see why he should resign. The harassment had nothing to do with Plymouth Heartbeat."