Police drop theft probe at Keighley animal charity

RELIEVED: Animal rescue charity boss Marianne Crowley

RELIEVED: Animal rescue charity boss Marianne Crowley

First published in News Exclusive by

POLICE have dropped a probe into allegations that the founder of Keighley-based Wildlife Rescue Sanctuaries had stolen £12,000 from the charity.

Officers have told Marianne Crowley, who set up and runs WRS, that the investigation is closed and no charges will be brought against her.

She was arrested in the middle of the night in May when detectives seized all the registered charity's accounts following claims donations of £7,000 and £5,000 were unaccounted for.

Mrs Crowley, 57, continued to run an animal welfare unit at Springfield Mill, Oakworth Road and charity shop in Shipley during what she called "a distressing ordeal" which had harmed her rescue work.

"I knew I hadn't done anything wrong and the police have carried out a very thorough job," she said.

"They took away all my paperwork and interviewed my accountant and even looked at my Ebay account. Now I have been told no further action will be taken."

She thanked hundreds of well wishers who had sent messages of support since her arrest, but said the turmoil caused had hurt her charity and affected her personally.

"I've been so down about all this - I've never been in it for the money and this is only due to malicious accusations from people with a grudge," Mrs Crowley said.

She said she gave 24 hours a day to her cause and her only gain from the charity was some £80 a week to cover costs.

"All I've ever wanted is to help animals and this has got in the way doing that. My mind's not been on it.

"Our charity shop is Shipley is struggling and only just paying its rent and meanwhile we're currently caring for 63 animals - everything from hedgehogs to barn owls," Mrs Crowley said.

"Luckily I now have some fantastic volunteers, who frankly have kept me going."

Wildlife Rescue Sanctuaries was investigated by the Charity Commission last year which criticised it for inefficiency and cited it as a national example of poor practices.

It was critical of the use of outside fundraising agencies which accounted for the vast majority of all cash collected and also a lack of proper accounting practices.

Mrs Crowley pledged to return to basics and rebuild WRS after a turbulent time.

"We have a lot of work to do and are looking into opening a new shop in Skipton as a good place to raise funds," she said.

A West Yorkshire Police spokesman confirmed Mrs Crowley had been released from police bail and will not face any charges.

Mrs Crowley also made an urgent plea on behalf of hedgehogs in danger from garden work at this time of year.

She said: "I was recently called to a Cottingley nursing home where a poor little thing had its face ripped off by a garden strimmer.

"All that was left was its tongue poking out and although vets in Baildon considered reconstructive surgery, it had to be euthanised.

"Please can anyone using strimmers first check to see if there are hedgehogs about."

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