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Perthshire woman’s GoFundMe probed by police investigating missing money claims

Sharyn McInally-Johnston's fundraiser brought in more than £200,000 for a child who died after a stem cell transplant.

Sharyn McInally-Johnston.
Sharyn McInally-Johnston.

Police are investigating a £216,000 fundraiser set up by a Perthshire woman to save a dying child amid allegations that donations have gone missing.

Sharyn McInally-Johnston organised a GoFundMe and enlisted celebrities such as Simon Cowell to raise money for urgent medical treatment for Nathaniel Nabena.

When the ten-year-old died, it was agreed the public donations would go to help other children in need.

But now Nathaniel’s dad is questioning where the funds have gone.

And Police Scotland has confirmed officers are investigating reports of financial irregularities.

family snapshot showing Ebi Nabena with his arm round his son Nathaniel, who is wearing a colourful eye patch
Nathaniel and his dad Ebi Nabena. Image: Ebi Nabena.

Ms McInally-Johnston’s husband Mark said she was unavailable, and also refused to comment when The Courier visited their rural Perthshire home this week.

Nathaniel’s father Ebi Nabena told us: “All I want is justice and transparency

“The money cannot bring my son back.

“But I know Nathaniel wanted it to help other children.”

Sharyn McInally-Johnston commended for fundraising

Nathaniel came to the UK from Nigeria in 2020 to have a prosthetic eye fitted after losing his own to a rare tumour.

It was then he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML).

Specialists said the youngster had just months to live and his only hope was a stem cell transplant.

Smiling Simon Cowell
Simon Cowell supported the fundraiser.

But because he and his family were not EU citizens, he did not qualify for NHS treatment.

Mr Nabena says Sharyn McInally-Johnston made contact through a Facebook group for children with AML and offered to help raise funds for private surgery.

She enlisted a national newspaper to spread the word.

Simon Cowell, David Walliams and Katie Price were among the stars who lent their support.

There was a massive outpouring of public sympathy, with donations totalling £216,421 pouring in.

An early day motion tabled in the House of Commons commended Ms McInally-Johnston’s “extraordinarily selfless action”.

Then, days before Nathaniel’s private treatment was due to start, his application to stay in the UK on compassionate grounds was accepted for processing.

This meant he became eligible for NHS care.

The operation in June 2021 was a success but in 2022 Nathaniel became sick again.

He died on August 19 2022 after contracting an infection.

No comment from couple

Mr Nabena, now living in Croydon with his wife and their other children, says he wanted to set up a foundation in Nathaniel’s name to help other kids, but learned funds were missing.

He reported his concerns to the Metropolitan Police last summer and also alerted GoFundMe.

Mr Nabena says he was contacted by an officer from Police Scotland after the case was referred to them.

A Police Scotland spokesperson told The Courier: “Enquiries are continuing following a report of financial irregularities with regard to a GoFundMe page.”

Mark and Sharyn McInally-Johnston taking a selfie beside a river
Mark and Sharyn McInally-Johnston.

A GoFundMe spokesperson said: “We will always cooperate with any police investigation into misuse.

“In the very rare case there is misuse, we refund donations. This means there is no risk whatsoever to donors.

“We’re proud to have the world’s only giving guarantee, where your money gets where it is supposed to go – or we will reimburse you.”

Mark McInally-Johnston claims the couple have been advised by police not to comment.

The pair run a business called Prepper’s Paradise, which sells survival gear.

In March 2022, they told newspapers they had sold out of gas masks following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.