A FINANCE boss from Basingstoke has today been jailed for four years for stealing more than £440,000 from a Hampshire charity.

Ronald Chigunwe, of Breadels Field, Beggarword abused his position of trust by taking the cash from Wessex Heartbeat, which provides support to patients at the Wessex Cardiac Centre at Southampton General Hospital.

Last year Chigunwe, 40, admitted two counts of fraud by abuse of position and two counts of converting criminal property.

He was sentenced at Southampton Crown Court today after both the prosecution and defence were able to agree on the exact amount taken - £443,443.

Speaking after the case John Munro, chief executive of Wessex Heartbeat, said: "We are delighted with the sentence he received. It was almost the maximum he could have been given and reflects how severely he abused his position of trust.

"If he hadn't done what he did, we could have supported more projects a lot sooner.

"Chigunwe showed a callous disregard for our supporters and the patients and their families. The judge called him 'despicable' for stealing from a charity and I'd agree wholeheartedly with that description."

Mr Munro said he was confident that all the money would be recovered through the sale of Chigunwe's assets.

He added: "He seemed to be a very nice guy but turned out to be a cold, calculating fraudster who showed no remorse for what he did. His motive was pure greed."

Chigunwe, who was the charity's financial manager, stole the money over several years before resigning from the charity in 2015.

Wessex Heartbeat began raising funds for Wessex Cardiac Centre in 1992 and has so far netted more than £15 million to provide cutting-edge equipment, clinical education and research. It helps 20,000 patients a year.

As well as being jailed for four years Chigunwe was told to pay £12,000 costs.