Bake Off winner fears the Highland event was scam
A DEVASTATED mother who won Highland Bake Off fears the competition was a scam after the organiser disappeared without donating the money raised to charity.
Police Scotland has been informed after the man behind the event, Garry James, who also organised Highland Fashion Week, disappeared after telling winner Nicola Thompson that her recipes would be published in a cook book.
The book is yet to materialise despite dozens of people paying £20 to pre-order it, and MFR charity Cash For Kids has reportedly not received any proceeds from the event which was held last October.
Mrs Thompson claims she was repeatedly fobbed off by Mr James after winning the competition which was judged by Ashers Bakery, and he has since blocked Mrs Thompson from contacting him.
It is not the first time questions have been raised after celebrity guest Joey Essex failed to show at Highland Fashion Week – amid claims Mr James did not book the reality TV star in the first place.
The Courier also understands that Mr James failed to provide refunds for a similar cancelled event in Dumfries and Mrs Thompson has been left with no choice but to try and find her own publisher.
The mother-of-two from Nairn is passionate about baking and impressed judges at the competition, which took place at Loch Ness Country House Hotel.
“I was so happy to win but almost immediately things just didn’t feel right and I found the whole thing really unprofessional,” said Mrs Thompson.
“I sent Garry the recipes as requested and roughly 50 people ordered the book which was meant to come out in stores and on Amazon, then I didn’t hear anything back.
“My husband told me to give Garry a chance and in the end he did get back to me saying there had been a problem with the printers, but I wasn’t to worry and the problem would be sorted in time for Christmas.
“That was the last I heard from him before he blocked me and many other people from contacting him. I put so much effort into the recipes and I love baking so the whole thing has been very upsetting.
“I paid to enter the competition and people also paid to watch us at work on the day, but Cash For Kids still hasn’t received the money.
“I’m so upset because people have lost money and there is no explanation – I never thought this would happen when I won because I was so happy and we’ve all been completely let down.”
It is believed roughly £600 was raised by the event alone with yet more money unaccounted for through book orders.
It is also unclear as to whether 300 people who paid between £25-£35 for tickets to see Joey Essex during Highland fashion week last year ever received a refund.
Mr James claimed that the Only Way is Essex Star had other commitments and encouraged people to keep hold of their tickets for a showing at a later date, which has not been announced.
Mr James blocked The Inverness Courier from contacting him and failed to comment on the matter.
A spokesman for Police Scotland said it was unable to comment on individual cases and ongoing investigations.