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Conman befriended family of dying baby to steal from charity appeal

A cold-hearted conman callously befriended the family of a dying baby – to steal from their charity appeal. Stephen Whittaker, 37, even went to the extraordinary lengths of taking part in a fund-raising bike ride … but never handed over a penny of the estimated £800 he raised. And today the M.E.N. can reveal that while the Wythenshawe dad-of-two was conning little Tyler Furness's family, he was also ripping off two other major charities. 

Police believe he could have been coining in £400 a day tricking kind-hearted shoppers by waving buckets outside supermarkets saying he was collecting for Christie hospital and Barnado's – often with his young son in tow. Repulsed and violated: Family of dying baby duped by conman speak out And it has emerged he could have been staging the con for at least three years. 

It will never be known exactly how much Whittaker stole – but police believe it runs into thousands of pounds. Whittaker, of Felton Avenue, Benchill, pleaded guilty at Manchester magistrates to three charges of theft. The family of Tyler - who was born three months premature at Wythenshawe Hospital – were there to watch him brought to justice. As he walked out of court, Tyler's furious grandfather thrust a photograph of his grandson into Whittaker's hands, shouting: “This is who you stole from.” A shame-faced Whittaker could only look at the floor as he was bailed for sentencing. 

Tyler died one month after Whittaker was arrested.

The MEN has discovered how Whittaker first ingratiated himself with the baby's family after seeing a charity poster in Wythenshawe hospital. He said he wanted to help raise money for its neonatal unit which cared for Tyler via their charity the Light At the End fund. But after meeting the family and taking part in their sponsored bike ride he pocketed an estimated £800 in donations. 

The fundraising manager at Wythenshawe Hospital called police after it became clear Whittaker hadn't handed over any of the money. He initially lied and said he had handed in a smaller amount of money to a security guard prompting a full investigation by the fundraising office. But when questioned by police he eventually confessed to stealing the sponsorship cash. Tyler, from Buxton, died shortly after Whittaker was arrested - aged just 13 months old.

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