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Home Medway News Article
Mothers on a Chatham housing estate, plagued by crime and anti-social behaviour, decided to restore its reputation and inject some community spirit.
They started the White Road Neigbourhood Panel two years ago with high hopes to provide activities and a children's club to help tackle some of the problems.
Money was donated by three local councillors – from council funds – and the local Co-op store and mhs homes also stepped in with financial help.
But now the project has gone sour - after one of the mothers admitted dipping into its bank account.
Danielle Amusa, 29, has been sacked from the panel, but says she should never have been put in charge of the cash in the first place.
The mother-of-three said she has now been ostracised and has had to even tape up her letterbox following hate mail and there have been attacks on her car.
Miss Amusa, who was secretary of the panel, said: "It's all my fault. I'm devastated.
"I've never had any experience of handling money. I'm under psychiatric care and should never had been put in this position. But nobody else was willing to do it."
She believes the amount she owes is £2,500, but there is believed to be a total of £14,000 unaccounted for in cheques, which she had authorised.
The panel is now inactive while inquiries continue into what has gone wrong – a far cry from the optimism of its beginnings.
The mothers' initiative was praised and it quickly attracted financial support from mhs homes and the Co-op.
The three ward councillors Vince Maple, Paul Godwin and Julie Shaw pledged £250 from their community improvement grant to set up the group and nominated Miss Amusa and fellow mother Gemma O'Hara for Pride in Medway awards for their work.
The pair received glowing tributes at a glittering awards dinner in March at the Pilkington Building at the University of Kent and collecting a gong from ITV's Sangeeta Bharbra.
"I was terrified. I want the truth come out. I want a prosecution. I deserve to be punished. Money was stolen and that's a criminal offence..." - Danielle Amuse
The same month they held a party to mark their first anniversary where guests, including MP Tracey Crouch and Medway economic chief Cllr Jane Chitty enjoyed a specially-made celebration cake.
But weeks later, cash-strapped Miss Amusa - whose daughter Tiyah, 10, has a serious heart defect - started using the money to tide herself over.
She said: "I needed money to pay for train fare to London to get Tiyah to the Royal Brompton Hospital and then in July I needed about £300 to get my car fixed.
"I asked permission for both of these, but then I saw the card as a way out and things just started to spiral out of control."
Miss Amusa, who also has a daughter Cody, 13, and five-year-old son Warren said she also used the money to pay her mobile phone bill.
The single mother had kept receipts and intended to pay the money back. It is believed all the money in the account has been spent.
She said: "My psychiatrist advised me to go to the police and come clean.
"I was terrified. I want the truth come out. I want a prosecution. I deserve to be punished. Money was stolen and that's a criminal offence."
Despite Miss Amusa's candid confession, others involved in the panel were reluctant to speak about the scandal of the missing funds.
Cllr Maple said: "I understand the police inquiry is ongoing, so I am unable to comment."
And her colleague Gemma O’Hara was uncontactable.
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