Wednesday 21 February 2018

€370,000 raised for mugged pensioner

Video grab taken from BBC News of Alan Barnes appearing on BBC Breakfast, after beautician Katie Cutler set up the Help Alan Barnes online donation page. Photo: BBC News/PA Wire
Video grab taken from BBC News of Alan Barnes appearing on BBC Breakfast, after beautician Katie Cutler set up the Help Alan Barnes online donation page. Photo: BBC News/PA Wire

By Tom Wilkinson

A frail, disabled pensioner whose story touched the nation after he was mugged has said the £280,000-plus (€370,000) donated by well-wishers will be "put to good use".

When beautician Katie Cutler heard about Alan Barnes, 67, who is 4ft 6in and visually impaired, being attacked outside his home in Low Fell, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, last Sunday, she was moved to help out.

She set up a page on the Go Fund Me site, which has now received more than 21,000 donations from people across the world.

With the total now standing at more than £280,000, Mr Barnes told BBC Breakfast he will seek legal advice about how to spend it. He has said he will not return to his old home because he no longer felt safe there.

Speaking from his sister's home in Newcastle, he told the show: "A solicitor from Gosforth has offered advice and I will just have to take it from there, but it will be put to good use."

Ms Cutler said that, as well as cash pouring in, others were willing to help when Mr Barnes moved house.

She told the BBC show: "A full kitchen has been offered, a conservatory, a bathroom. There's an electrician, a tiler - you name it ... everything."

The pair met for the first time yesterday and Mr Barnes said: "She's just an absolutely wonderful girl.

"She gave us a hug - I'm not used to giving people I don't know a hug.

"We chatted a bit and it was just amazing."

Asked what his message was to the kind donors, he said: "Thank you doesn't seem to be enough, but I really appreciate it."

Ms Cutler, who has a daughter, said she has been asked by other people to help out with more good causes.

She said: "Obviously I have a family to look after and a business to run, but if there is anything I can do for people I will desperately try."

Meanwhile, a separate fund for people to thank 21-year-old Ms Cutler for her efforts has reached £565.

Its creator, Catherine Kirkley, wrote: "We all know Katie has done a wonderful job for Alan. Let's help her have a wonderful holiday x".

Donor Dennis Price wrote: "Katie, for as long as I can remember, the news has been unrelentingly awful, with wars, unrest, social injustice and a hundred other ills and tragedies from Britain and around the world beamed into our living rooms.

"Alan Barnes suffered his misfortune as well, which disgusted everyone who heard of it, but you did something about it, despite not knowing him personally.

"Your kind and selfless act for this poor man has led to his life being transformed for the better, while seeing the generosity and warmth of all the people who have contributed to the fund you set up has made the whole country feel better."

When Ms Cutler set up the fund for Mr Barnes at the intention was to raise £500 to buy his new home carpets and curtains.

Mr Barnes is a well-known figure in Low Fell and is renowned for being able to quickly calculate how many days old someone is from their date of birth.

He has lived with disabilities from birth after his mother contracted German measles when she was pregnant.

Ms Cutler thanked people who have donated money for her to have a holiday - but politely declined it.

She wrote on the donation page set up for her: "Hello everyone this is so incredibly kind but I really can't accept anything.

"I have my full life to work & I can't help but feel that there are people out there who would really need it.

And responding to comments that the donations could pay for her honeymoon, she said: "I'm not not in any hurry to get married too but honestly I don't deserve this."

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