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ShelterBox founder Tom Henderson vows to fight back in charity row

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 23, 2012

Tom Henderson at his home yesterday. His late wife Jane's portrait hangs on the wall behind him Picture: Colin Higgs

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Defiant ShelterBox founder Tom Henderson has said the gloves are off in a fight back against the charity which sacked him for gross misconduct.

Breaking his silence, the former charity boss said he would not flinch from a promise made to his wife, Jane, who died within a day of his dismissal.

He also revealed plans to launch a new disaster relief venture which has already won support from former ShelterBox affiliates.

Last week, ShelterBox said their chief executive of 12 years was ousted for failing to explain a potential conflict of interest with a business his son was thought to have been involved in.

But Mr Henderson dismissed their version of events saying he believed they simply wanted him out.

"In my 12 years, I had nothing but the interests of ShelterBox at heart," he said.

"I don't feel bitter about what has happened, but I do feel disappointed because the people I thought I knew have taken this course of action.

"I'm also anxious. I have friends and colleagues who I have known for years and they have become part of this collateral damage."

Mr Henderson, who lives just a few hundred metres from the Helston headquarters of the charity he founded, was sacked on July 24.

After months of speculation, ShelterBox last week disclosed a serious incident report they submitted to the Charity Commission the following month. The investigation centred on a possible conflict of interest between Mr Henderson's son, John, and a business they believed he was involved in which they said was being lined up for a £650,000 order.

The report said Mr Henderson was putting "more pressure than usual" for the order to be placed and was reluctant to explain any potential conflict of interest.

However, Mr Henderson rejected that interpretation saying the fact of the matter was the order had never been placed.

"This was a 'serious incident' which never (actually) happened," he said.

"I have never placed an order or sent a cheque."

Mr Henderson said the 'plan' would have been assessed by "gatekeepers," or administrators, at the charity who would decide whether items were needed or affordable.

He added that his son had designed tools for the company in question, although at the time he was unaware of this. He said his son was the brains behind numerous designs, including some for ShelterBox which had been independently assessed as being the best value for the job and were purchased at cost price.

The former Royal Navy diver paid tribute to his family and hundreds of supporters around the globe, saying they had helped him through one of the most difficult times of his life.

Mr Henderson vowed to fight on, saying he had made a solemn promise to his wife, Jane, who died suddenly within a day of his dismissal.

"I light a candle to her every day," he said. "I do have a duty of care to donors, but also to those who serve and the 1.5 million people we have helped and the people we want to help.

"But I am on autopilot. That's how I get through the day. We were together for 43 years."

He admitted to an occasional "fleeting moment" of considering throwing the towel in. "But I promised Jane the work we had started would be carried on and if you know me you know I am seriously determined."

Next month will see the launch of a new charitable venture, an aspect of which is likely to be named the Jane Henderson Foundation.

At present, Mr Henderson is tight lipped about the charity but said it will address disaster relief and ongoing need.

A spokeswoman for ShelterBox said trustees were compelled to act.

"This matter has been an unwelcome distraction at a time when ShelterBox has never been busier bringing much needed aid to people in desperate need through man-made or natural disaster," she said.

"The board of trustees worked with Mr Henderson for months to resolve issues around his capability and conduct and, unable to reach resolution, unanimously agreed that he could no longer remain as CEO.

"The trustees are bound by UK law to protect the charity and lost trust and confidence in Mr Henderson when he remained unwilling or unable to explain the nature of the £650,000 order."

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  • manicstreet  |  December 04 2012, 1:34PM

    Charity begins at home, that should not mean Mr Hendersons home.

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  • stevepz  |  November 28 2012, 10:32PM

    I never asked for an answer Jamesfoster. I just posted my comment here as per the rules of this is Cornwall. Am I the only one here getting sick and tired of having their comments attacked by these know it all bullies?

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  • Cknocker  |  November 28 2012, 9:21PM

    I'd disagree with that - e mails certainly are evidence (Thats why the the likes of Rebecca Brooks et al have landed in hot water) - the weight they carry can certainly be challenged though. They are not generally a contractually biding document though.

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  • jamesfoster  |  November 28 2012, 8:54PM

    Answer to stevepz. E- mails are not considered as evedence. But a signed document would be

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  • Droofguy  |  November 27 2012, 11:53PM

    Surely Arbitration would be a better step than the EAT, that way both sides present their evidence to an independant panel and all this under the table, he said-she said nonsense could be cleared up very quickly. IMO, I find it difficult to believe that Mr H would be so naive as to put either himself or Shelterbox in an awkward position, but his comments on his intention to start an alternative charity is pure sour grapes, and would take a lot of money to set up before any reached the places it was needed. Tom, you're probably funding your appeal and any subsequent legal action yourself, but Shelterbox will be funding their counsel from the contributions of those who have donated hard earned in cash. Both sides need to think about that............

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  • Cknocker  |  November 27 2012, 11:14PM

    Heres an interesting article: - http://tinyurl.com/d48noot A couple of questions: - 1. Why don't the trustees publish the solicitors report? 2. Surely with the sums of money involved and the potential fall out, the board had a duty to order a forensic investigation? That would have concluded the issue one way or another.

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  • stevepz  |  November 27 2012, 10:36PM

    We like to think charities are just about doing the right thing, but they are businesses like any other with CEO's getting 50-100k salaries. Just type in the name of a charity and CEO salary and you will see what I mean. And like any other business it is open to back scratching. Mr Henderson bleating on that they never caught me red handed so therefore I am innocent is not getting any public sympathy. There is evidence that there was an attempt to place the order, that is enough. One email is all it takes.

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  • jamesfoster  |  November 27 2012, 12:16PM

    The laws in England are respected the world over and a with no documentary evidence to present the the Board of directors and individuals could find them selfs in some difficulties. It would be very helpful if the company Found would make a statement to the effect that Mr Hendersons Son had no shares or financial intrest in the company . That would realy drive home the point. Also you do realise that under the Freedom of Information Act the Board are required to provide all documentary evidence pertaing to Mr Hendersons dismissal including the investigation reports.

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  • jamesfoster  |  November 26 2012, 2:36PM

    I smell a very large rat. How could Mr Henderson place a £650,000 order on his own? Where are the gatekeepers? Did he sign a cheque for the order? Did he sign the order? Did the Charities commision state that there was any wrong doing? Did Mr Henderson commit a criminal offence? I know Mr Henderson would take legal as it is his only recourse to recovering his position.

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  • TeamH  |  November 26 2012, 2:24PM

    Would personally like to thank Truro kernow I couldn't of put it better myself much appreciated from Team H .

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