A CHARITY worker from Basingstoke has been charged with a raft of offences after nearly £450,000 in cash was stolen from his employer.

 Ronald Chigunwe, of Breadels Field, Beggarword stands accused of abusing his position at much-loved charity Wessex Heartbeat, which provides support to the babies, children, adults and their loved ones treated at the Wessex Cardiac Centre at Southampton General Hospital.

Detectives in Southampton have charged the 40-year-old with offences relating to fraud by abuse of position and six Proceeds of Crime Act offences by way of converting criminal property and money laundering after more than £440,000 cash was stolen from Wessex Heartbeat over several years.

Chigunwe worked as a financial controller for Wessex Heartbeat, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

John Munro, chief executive of Wessex Heartbeat, said: “I can confirm that a past member of staff, Ronald Chigunwe, has been charged with a number of historical offences including fraud by abuse of position and at this time we are await his initial court hearing on 11 July, 2017.

“It is inappropriate for me to comment further at this stage.

“I will issue a full statement at the end of the legal proceedings.”

The alleged offences took place between November 2008 and June 2015, when Chigunwe left the charity.

Wessex Heartbeat began fundraising for the Wessex Cardiac Centre at Southampton General Hospital in 1992, and has since raised £15.8 million to provide crucial improvements, cutting-edge equipment, clinical education and research. It helps about 20,000 patients a year.

It was reported earlier this week that it is investing £200,000 in a programme which will give Southampton youngsters the opportunity to learn about science and lead a healthier life.

Munro announced plans to provide funding for the LifeLab programme, a state-of-the-art teaching laboratory which gives students aged between 11 and 18-year-old the opportunity to be scientists in a hospital research environment, to be piloted in the city.

The programme will be run by staff from the faculty of Medicine and Education School from the University of Southampton and will be based in the National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre at University Hospital Southampton.

Chigunwe is set to appear at Southampton Magistrates court on July 11.