Charities are to review what lessons can be learned from the death of Britain’s longest-serving poppy seller after her friends and relatives claimed she was “exhausted” by pleas for donations.
The body of Olive Cooke, 92, was found by police at the bottom of the Avon Gorge in Bristol last week, two days before the 70th anniversary of VE day. The war widow had dedicated her life to raising money for the Royal British Legion and is believed to have sold about 30,000 poppies.
In October, the pensioner revealed that she had received 267 charity letters in just one month and devoted a day each week to recycling them.Family and friends have said the letters, along with phone calls asking for donations, caused Mrs Cooke distress.
Mrs Cooke, who lived in Fishponds, lost her first husband in the Second World War. She sold poppies for the Royal British Legion for 76 years and was presented with the Lord Mayor’s Medal, as well as a “Points of Light” award by the Prime Minister, for her work.
Her grandson condemned the charities for trying to “milk” her. Kevin King, 38, of Redland, Bristol, said his grandmother felt obliged to give, even when she could not afford to. He said she received at least one or two calls a day seeking money.
“When people phoned up and asked over the phone she ended up feeling quite guilty. She took it to heart,” Mr King said. “I heard rumours they were passing her number around saying ‘this person is really generous, give this number a try’. I think they really were pestering her too much. It was like they were trying to milk her.”
The Institute of Fundraising’s standards committee said it had summoned various charity representatives to review the case.