A troupe of Swindon girls in Bobbie's School of Dance turned up at Heathrow airport on 2 April expecting to fly out to a dance festival in Los Angeles only to discover that no flight had been booked, nor accommodation.
The dancers and their parents spent a year raising £30,000 for the dream trip. But organiser Amanda (Mandy) Williams, 51, did not make the arrangements and disappeared the day before the girls were due to fly out.
Swindonlink magazine featured the start of the fundraising efforts in April 2008 after parent Helen Thompson contacted us for publicity.
Mandy Williams was the administrator for her daughter's dance school, Bobbi's Academy of Dance. Her performers were spotted at a show in London in early 2008 by organisers of the Dance Excellence Festival in Los Angeles and had invited them to showcase their talents in California.
The 16 Swindon girls were to have joined with dancers from 23 American states and 26 other countries for a week of dance workshops.
Mandy Williams told Swindon Link last year of the tremendous opportunities for the girls during the week-long event. She said, “they will be able to audition for American shows, compete for a scholarship and work with top Hollywood producers and choreographers in three days of workshops and perform at Disneyland. We are highly honoured to be asked.”
Dancer Melissa Treen told Swindon Link, “I screamed out loud when we were given the letter saying we had the chance to go to California; it’s amazing. We really want to go and will be working hard to raise the money.”
Fundraising events in the last year included supermarket bag packs, a show at Swindon Arts Centre, and a charity curry night at the Bombay Lounge restaurant arranged through Swindon Link.
Yet Mrs Williams never made booked the flights and walked off with the hard earned cash just before the girls and chaperones were due to travel. She was apprehended in Weymouth on Friday 3 April after the owner of the guesthouse in which she had booked a room recognised her from TV pictures. Mrs Williams was returned to Swindon to be questioned by detectives at Gablecross Police Station who later arrested her for theft.
Parent Helen Thompson said, "the girls are absolutely devasted that their dreams have been dashed. They should have arrived in Los Angeles on Friday afternoon ready to start rehearsing. We just cannot believe what happened and we desperately tried to salvage the trip through media publicity. I know it was going to be difficult; we've been hoping for help in any way."
With the busy Easter period, booking flights at short notice was proving difficult and expensive. The parents were hoping for a white knight to come to the rescue with £50,000.
Mrs Thompson said that dance school owner Bobbi Newman was not available to comment on her mother's actions. "Bobbi worked so hard to prepare the girls for their big opportunity; she's absolutely distraught about what has happened. The dancers are her family, she loves the girls to bits. Bobbi is completely in pieces as to why her mother has done this."
See story at Daily Mail.
Pictured above, Crime Scene Invesigators outside Mandy William's home in Westlea. Photo: Richard Wintle. www.calyxpix.com
Below, upset mother's who are trying to raise the money to give the girls their big chance, from left, Mandy Treen, Julie Alldritt, Paula Harrison, Donna Clarke, Helen Thompson, Carol Morris. Photo: Richard Wintle. www.calyxpix.com