A Blackpool girl who was looking forward to her first break since being diagnosed with cancer had her hopes scuppered after a massive fraud left the holiday provider without any caravans.
Ruth Brierley, 44, forked out £1,725 for a caravan holiday to Butlins in Skegness for her family, including six-year-old Skye, who was diagnosed with embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma, a head tumour, in December 2017.
But when she noticed that the man she had booked the private caravan with, Dave Brown, had not renewed his advertisement from holiday website UkCaravans4Hire, she became suspicious.
She discovered that the holiday had fallen through - and that the cash she paid was gone.
She said: “We now have no holiday. Butlins offered to help, but we would still have to pay and we just can’t afford it.
“My husband is disabled and I care for him, and I care for Skye as well, so we don’t have a never-ending pot of money. At first I was just sad that somebody could do this to a little girl with cancer.
“I just couldn’t believe it. How can one family be so unlucky?
“Skye has dealt with everything with a smile on her face. She’s absolutely fantastic and to have somebody do this to her is just horrible. It’s cruel.”
Mr Brown said he and his wife had voluntarily parted with £174,000 on the expectation that it would be paid back before the holiday season began – but the money was not returned.
DS James Bailey, of South Yorkshire Police, said Mr Brown had been the victim of a ‘massive fraud’ and as a result had lost his caravans.
He said: “That has had a knock-on effect on his customers. But it’s not due to any dishonesty on his part.”
He said it was currently under investigation by Lincolnshire police.
Lynn Hamilton, 57, of Salisbury Road, Marton, also lost out after she paid £650 for a week-long holiday in one of Mr Brown’s caravans with her family in May.
“I was so angry because my grandchildren were looking forward to going on holiday, and suddenly that holiday didn’t exist,” she said. “It’s got to a point where we don’t feel there’s anything we can do about it. We just don’t want it to happen to anybody else.”
Both Mrs Brierley, of Belvere Avenue, and Mrs Hamilton reported their experiences to Action Fraud.
A spokesman for the national reporting centre said of Mrs Hamilton’s report: “This report has been linked to a large number of other reports. All of these reports are currently being assessed together by the City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau.”
She said no progress had yet been made with Mrs Brierley’s report as it was made recently.