Family of Olive Cooke say charities are not responsible for her death

Olive Cooke

Family of Olive Cooke say charities are not responsible for her death

Fundraising | Alice Sharman | 19 May 2015

The granddaughter of Olive Cooke, the 92-year-old poppy seller said to have committed suicide after being overwhelmed by fundraising requests, has said that charities are not to blame for her death.

At one point Cooke received 267 charity letters in one month and friends and family suggested she felt overwhelmed by them. This led to accusations in various media outlets that she was "hounded to death" by charities.

Cooke, who was found dead by the Avon Gorge near the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol on 6 May, two days before VE day, had dedicated 76 years of her life to raising money for the Royal British Legion, and is believed to have sold over 300,000 poppies.

Giving to charity was a 'passion'

Her granddaughter, Jessica Dunne, said that although the phone calls from charities were beginning to get “intrusive”, there is “no blame or suggestion that this was a reason for her death”. Dunne said that her grandmother gave to charity because she could afford to.

She said: “Nan would have wanted the work of charities to be promoted. It brought her great comfort to know she could help make a difference in a person's life by donating to charities and by her own charity work.

"She believed that charities are the backbone to our communities, that they can be the scaffolding for us in our times of crisis. She believed that charities give us support, hope and courage when we need it the most.

"I think that the amount of contact from charities was starting to escalate and get slightly out of control, and the phone calls were beginning to get intrusive, but there is no blame or suggestion that this was a reason for her death.

"She might have had up to 27 direct debits at one point and been a bit exhausted by all the letters, but she had decided which charities she wanted to give to.

"She had her favourites and was not bumbling along and letting them grow and grow. She was very on-the-ball with money and gave to charities because she wanted to and could afford to - it was a passion."

Dunne said that her grandmother had left the family a “beautiful note” explaining the reasons for her death, which were connected to depression and “health issues”, making no mention of charities.

She went on to say that the fundraising methods “were a small part within a complex situation”, and that any accusation that Cooke was “killed by kindness” were untrue.

However, Dunne said that although the repeated contact from charities “was not a causative factor”, issues around fundraising still need to be addressed.

Charities 'do a great job'

Dunne said: "It would be nice if some good came from this, if people supported the elderly around them and offered them comfort and support.

"The contact from charities does need looking at, and obviously with the methods of fundraising there are issues that need to be addressed and are being addressed now, which has got to be a good thing.

"But their work should still be praised and they do such a great job."

Cooke’s MP, Kerry McCarthy, has promised to speak to the Charity Commission about the number of letters and calls received, and the Fundraising Standards Board has said it will review the case.

The great-grandmother’s family said it hopes to set up a fund in Cooke’s name. 


[Cancel] | Reply to:

Close »

Community Standards

The community and comments board is intended as a platform for informed and civilised debate.

We hope to encourage a broad range of views, however, there are standards that we expect commentators to uphold. We reserve the right to delete or amend any comments that do not adhere to these standards.

We welcome:

  • Robust but respectful debate
  • Strongly held opinions
  • Intelligent relevant discussion
  • The sharing of relevant experiences
  • New participants

We will not publish:

  • Rude, threatening, offensive, obscene or abusive language, or links to such material
  • Links to commercial organisations or spam postings. The comments board is not an advertising platform
  • The posting of contact details for yourself or others
  • Comments intended for malicious purpose or mindless abuse
  • Comments purporting to be from another person or organisation under false pretences
  • Gratuitous criticism, commentary or self-promotion
  • Any material which breaches copyright or privacy laws, or could be considered libellous
  • The use of the comments board for the pursuit or extension of personal disputes

Be aware:

  • Views expressed on the comments board are left at users’ discretion and are in no way views held or supported by Civil Society Media
  • Comments left by others may not be accurate, do not rely on them as fact
  • You may be misunderstood - sarcasm and humour can easily be taken out of context, try to be clear


  • Enjoy the opportunity to express your opinion and respect the right of others to express theirs
  • Confine your remarks to issues rather than personalities

Together we can keep our community a polite, respectful and intelligent platform for discussion.


After the Olive Cooke tragedy, fundraisers must accept the need for stronger regulation

Olive Cooke investigation ‘likely to lead to tighter rules on direct mail and telephone fundraising’

FRSB promise interim report into Olive Cooke in next two weeks after receiving 300 complaints

Grayling: government will act to stop ‘gross exploitation’ of elderly people following Olive Cooke case

HMRC assures charities of ‘soft landing’ approach in Common Reporting Standard guidance

26 Aug 2016

HMRC has published new Common Reporting Standard guidance, which assures charities that it will implement...

Access Foundation to invest endowment in social investment

24 Aug 2016

Access: the Foundation for Social Investment has announced it will put its endowment from the Cabinet...

Charity investigated after it did not know its own income

23 Aug 2016

The Charity Commission has opened an inquiry into a charity that underestimated its own annual income...

Commission appoints interim manager to dissolve charity being investigated over investment tactics

26 Aug 2016

The Charity Commission has appointed an interim manager to oversee the winding up of the Park Charitable...

Association of Charitable Foundations' chief executive will step down this year

25 Aug 2016

David Emerson is stepping down as chief executive of the Association of Charitable Foundations later this...

Charity Commission should ‘avoid the temptation to look tough’ when it starts disqualifying trustees

24 Aug 2016

Other infrastructure bodies have joined NCVO in raising concerns about how the Charity Commission might...

Free HR system to launch for charities

25 Aug 2016

A free human resources system designed for charities will launch next month and is currently being trialled...

RSPCA ranked fourth in global charity social media brand index

19 Aug 2016

A new social media index has said that the RSPCA has the fourth best digital charity brand globally, with...

Charity Commission retracts story which indicated it would no longer publish all accounts

18 Aug 2016

The Charity Commission has published a news story announcing it will no longer display documents received...

Join the discussion

Twitter button