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Hugh Grant Was a Major Donor for UK Charity at Center of BBC Exposé

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The founder of a U.K. charity, to which Hugh Grant is famously a major donor after contributing around 75,000 pounds, has become the subject of an extensive BBC exposé for faking viral stories of kindness to make money.

On Thursday, the BBC released a documentary, Britain’s Hero Plumber Exposed, with an accompanying report accusing Depher founder James Anderson of lying in X posts, using photos of non-consenting beneficiaries and spending company cash on a house and a car.

Anderson has accrued a huge online following in recent years for his social media posts detailing the desperate pleas for help his charity has answered — prompting two million pounds in donations, according to BBC analysis of company accounts and even receiving letters of thanks from the late Queen Elizabeth II and the now-King Charles.

Grant and musician Lily Allen are among the celebrities who donated to Depher, which supplies free plumbing, heating and food-shop services to the elderly and vulnerable across Britain, and Anderson has made appearances on leading television shows like Good Morning Britain, BBC Breakfast and Sky News.

Grant’s donations to Depher have always attracted widespread media coverage, with Anderson explaining how he has spoken to the star on the phone and calling him “a brother”.

The charity boss has denied some of the claims, but admitted: “I’ve made mistakes.” Grant has not yet publicly made any statement on the allegations.

One elderly woman, who Anderson said he had prevented from killing herself, had actually died years earlier after, the BBC found. He had posted a selfie with her and written: “A lady, 84 years old rang @DepherUK & spoke to myself, she was upset and desperate. She lived 53 miles away in #Preston I drive as fast as I could, when [I] got there she had a noose ready to commit suicide. All she wanted was hot water! #costoflivingcrisis.”

The image has been used seven times in total by Depher between February 2021 and August 2023, with different ages and locations for the woman. Andrea, the daughter of the real woman depicted, said the details posted were “a complete lie.” She added that the social media posts seemed as if “he’s using vulnerable people like my mother as a money-making machine.”

Another woman, Gemma, said Anderson used photos of her without permission, before misrepresenting her as a thief, according to the BBC. In one post, her two children were pictured and the caption said she was a victim of domestic violence. Another described her as having no food but “bread, margarine and paste” in the house and allege that she “deliberately stole” from Depher’s fundraising shop. Gemma told the U.K. broadcaster neither of the claims were true.

Other details from the damning investigation showed that an elderly man had not given his consent to be filmed by Anderson — partly over fears he’d be discriminated against because he was gay — but Depher used the photographs dozens of times and racked up 270,000 pounds in the process.

In another case, Depher posted an image of a woman who, according to the charity, died of carbon monoxide poisoning. The founder has admitted the post was “a lie” and vowed to figure out how the image was sent from the company’s X account.

Anderson defended buying property and a car with company cash, saying that the house was purchased with profits from paid work and permitted by the regulations for CICs (a Community Interest Company, a special type of limited company which exists to benefit the community rather than private shareholders).

“Depher” soon trended on X on Thursday morning.

The Hollywood Reporter has not yet heard back from Depher or reps for Grant.

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