ShelterBox founder Tom Henderson vows to fight back in charity row
Defiant ShelterBox founder Tom Henderson has said the gloves are off in a fight back against the charity which sacked him for gross misconduct.
Breaking his silence, the former charity boss said he would not flinch from a promise made to his wife, Jane, who died within a day of his dismissal.
He also revealed plans to launch a new disaster relief venture which has already won support from former ShelterBox affiliates.
Last week, ShelterBox said their chief executive of 12 years was ousted for failing to explain a potential conflict of interest with a business his son was thought to have been involved in.
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But Mr Henderson dismissed their version of events saying he believed they simply wanted him out.
"In my 12 years, I had nothing but the interests of ShelterBox at heart," he said.
"I don't feel bitter about what has happened, but I do feel disappointed because the people I thought I knew have taken this course of action.
"I'm also anxious. I have friends and colleagues who I have known for years and they have become part of this collateral damage."
Mr Henderson, who lives just a few hundred metres from the Helston headquarters of the charity he founded, was sacked on July 24.
After months of speculation, ShelterBox last week disclosed a serious incident report they submitted to the Charity Commission the following month. The investigation centred on a possible conflict of interest between Mr Henderson's son, John, and a business they believed he was involved in which they said was being lined up for a £650,000 order.
The report said Mr Henderson was putting "more pressure than usual" for the order to be placed and was reluctant to explain any potential conflict of interest.
However, Mr Henderson rejected that interpretation saying the fact of the matter was the order had never been placed.
"This was a 'serious incident' which never (actually) happened," he said.
"I have never placed an order or sent a cheque."
Mr Henderson said the 'plan' would have been assessed by "gatekeepers," or administrators, at the charity who would decide whether items were needed or affordable.
He added that his son had designed tools for the company in question, although at the time he was unaware of this. He said his son was the brains behind numerous designs, including some for ShelterBox which had been independently assessed as being the best value for the job and were purchased at cost price.
The former Royal Navy diver paid tribute to his family and hundreds of supporters around the globe, saying they had helped him through one of the most difficult times of his life.
Mr Henderson vowed to fight on, saying he had made a solemn promise to his wife, Jane, who died suddenly within a day of his dismissal.
"I light a candle to her every day," he said. "I do have a duty of care to donors, but also to those who serve and the 1.5 million people we have helped and the people we want to help.
"But I am on autopilot. That's how I get through the day. We were together for 43 years."
He admitted to an occasional "fleeting moment" of considering throwing the towel in. "But I promised Jane the work we had started would be carried on and if you know me you know I am seriously determined."
Next month will see the launch of a new charitable venture, an aspect of which is likely to be named the Jane Henderson Foundation.
At present, Mr Henderson is tight lipped about the charity but said it will address disaster relief and ongoing need.
A spokeswoman for ShelterBox said trustees were compelled to act.
"This matter has been an unwelcome distraction at a time when ShelterBox has never been busier bringing much needed aid to people in desperate need through man-made or natural disaster," she said.
"The board of trustees worked with Mr Henderson for months to resolve issues around his capability and conduct and, unable to reach resolution, unanimously agreed that he could no longer remain as CEO.
"The trustees are bound by UK law to protect the charity and lost trust and confidence in Mr Henderson when he remained unwilling or unable to explain the nature of the £650,000 order."