A CHARITY worker from Salisbury who spent two decades at the helm of fundraising for the city’s hospice has admitted stealing more than £180,000 from a trust set up to help disadvantaged young people.

John Francis Lakeman, 66, admitted stealing the money from the Broad Town Trust between 2000 and 2012, while he was an auditor.

Salisbury Crown Court heard on Thursday that Lakeman stole the money to pay a man who was blackmailing him.

Lakeman, who is married, told police he was in an abusive gay relationship with the man who threatened to “ruin his job and social life” if he did not pay him the money.

Wiltshire Police are investigating the claims of blackmail but no charges have yet been brought.

The Wiltshire-based Broad Town Trust was set up in 1686 and provides financial support from its investment income for young people under 25.

Grants are awarded for books and equipment and are given in cases of financial need to students and those seeking to become selfemployed.

Lakeman, of St Edmund’s Church Street, was involved with fundraising for Salisbury Hospice for 20 years, up to 2011.

He became involved with the hospice when it was set up in 1981 and took over as fundraising coordinator in 1997.

The defence and prosecution disagree on how much money was stolen from the Broad Town Trust and how much of it was transferred to the alleged blackmailer.

A Newton hearing in which the judge will establish the facts will be held at a date to be fixed before Lakeman is sentenced for ten counts of theft.