Landmine charity chief ‘must resolve differences’

The suspended chief executive and founder of a Scottish landmine charity backed by Princess Diana needs to resolve his 
differences with the organisation’s board or leave, the group has said.

The late Diana, Princess of Wales, tours an Angolan minefield in Halo Trust body armour. Picture: John Stilwell
The late Diana, Princess of Wales, tours an Angolan minefield in Halo Trust body armour. Picture: John Stilwell

The Halo Trust, which clears landmines around the world, suspended Guy Willoughby, saying that there had been a “serious deterioration” in relations between him and the board of the Dumfries-based charity.

An investigation is ongoing, but a spokeswoman for the Dumfries-based Halo Trust told The Scotsman that there was unlikely to be a middle ground over the future of Mr Willoughby, whose salary package is £220,000 a year and is understood to include private school fees for his children.

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“That’s the reality – they will wholly resolve their differences, or they won’t and he will go,” she said, adding that contrary to some reports, there was no question over financial irregularities on the part of either Mr Willoughby or the board.

The organisation said the problems related to the governance of the charity, which was set up by Mr Willoughby, who lives in Scotland, more than 25 years ago.

“The board of trustees of the Halo Trust has suspended Guy Willoughby as chief executive following a serious deterioration in relations between him and the board over the governance of the charity,” it said.

“The board will now undertake a review of the situation ­before deciding on the next steps to be taken.”

The Halo Trust, which has also been endorsed by actress ­Angelina Jolie, receives £3.7 million every year in UK taxpayer funding from the Westminster government’s department for international ­development.

Mr Willoughby, a former soldier and jockey believed to live in Dumfries, co-founded the Halo Trust in 1988. He has overseen its growth into one of the UK’s biggest international charities, and it employs about 7,000 mine clearers abroad. It is believed his pay deal was approved more than a decade ago.

A close friend of the suspended chief executive was reported to have described the move as “crazy” and “stupid”.

“He has done nothing wrong and just wants to restore his name and reputation,” the friend said. “This is about a clash with some of the trustees. He has been treated disgracefully. Halo staff are completely gobsmacked. It is just crazy, stupid and damaging to the charity.”

Mr Willoughby’s wife Fiona, who had been the charity’s part-time marketing director and official photographer, is no longer working for the organisation.

His name has already been removed from the Halo Trust website’s list of senior managers, but Mr Willoughby remains president of the US arm of the charity, which has separate trustees.

Board members of the UK branch of the Halo Trust include Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, who until this week was principal private secretary to both the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and to Prince Harry, who last year became a patron of the trust’s 25th anniversary appeal.

The details of Mr Willoughby’s salary package came to light in January and are believed to have sparked the investigation which led to his suspension. At the time, he defended the funding of his children’s places at top private schools, saying: “I am abroad two or three weeks every month and my wife is also abroad a lot of the time, so when we are abroad who is going to look after the children?”