Lorraine Kelly: I can’t understand the mentality of those who would con any brave soul who fought to defend our freedoms

Conman Jim Reilly at Dundee Court (Pix-AR.co.uk / Alan Richardson)
Conman Jim Reilly at Dundee Court (Pix-AR.co.uk / Alan Richardson)

THIS weekend, we remember the fallen.

All of those brave souls who fought and died defending our freedoms.

It’s a chance for us to say thank you by buying and wearing a poppy to show our gratitude and respect.

And today we can reflect on the sacrifices made in conflicts going back to the First World War, but also more recent wars such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I am honoured to be a patron of Help For Heroes and one of my proudest times ever was the four years I spent as an honorary colonel of The Black Watch cadets.

So I am deeply saddened and extremely angry when our servicemen and women or veterans are treated with contempt, and cynically conned, as they were by a certain James Reilly.

He set up the Tayforth Veterans Project in Dundee and, in 2011, he asked me along to open the centre.

What none of us knew at the time was that he would go on to embezzle at least £60,000 from the charity.

Earlier this year, several uniformed marines had travelled to Dundee Sheriff Court to witness Reilly plead guilty to his crimes.

In July, he was jailed for 13 months, but he has now been released from prison early and is back at home.

Veterans who were conned are rightly furious that he has served so little time in jail and they also allege he stole even more money from the charity.

Former Scots Guard NCO Les Mason, who was part of the team who worked hard to bring Reilly to justice, has demanded the authorities recover the money that was stolen.

You can understand his anger.

At the trial Reilly pleaded poverty, but now he is a free man, he can be seen driving a posh BMW and continuing his life as though nothing had happened.

It’s a sorry state of affairs and my heart sinks every time I see a photograph of me with Reilly reprinted whenever he is in the papers.

Just like those splendid veterans and everyone who raised funds for the charity in good faith, I was also duped.

And that stings horribly, more horribly than I can say.

I simply cannot understand the mentality of anyone who would scam money from a charity.

How on earth can they bear to even look at themselves in the mirror every morning?

It is utterly baffling.

I am so angry on behalf of those who gave their service and who deserve our help and respect.

Shame on James Reilly and every other con artist who would swindle the most deserving members of our society.

But do remember to take a moment today to give thanks to those brave men and women who served.