Sick conmen are posing as a grieving widow with Down’s Syndrome in a bid to try and swindle her social media followers out of cash – launching a fake fundraiser in her husband’s memory.
Beloved Tommy Pilling lost his battle to Covid-19 on New Year’s Day, aged 62 – leaving his doting wife Maryanne, 49, heartbroken.
The couple, from Shoebury, Essex, who both have Down’s Syndrome, made history last summer when they celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary – making them the longest-married couple of anyone with the condition.
But Tommy was admitted to Southend Hospital on December 10 with Covid-19 and pneumonia – and sadly lost his battle just three weeks later, on January 1.
Conmen have set up a fake Instagram account to reportedly take cash from followers, posing as widow Maryanne Pilling, 49. Pictured: Maryanne with her husband Tommy
Tommy Pilling tragically lost his battle with Covid on New Year’s Day after going into hospital before Christmas. Pictured: The couple on their wedding day in 1995 when they became the UK’s first couple with Down’s Syndrome to marry
And Maryanne’s devastated family – who were also the only family that Tommy had – have been left ‘disgusted’ after coming across fake social media profiles on Instagram and Facebook, claiming to be raising cash in memory of Tommy.
The couple have almost 75,000 followers on their official Facebook page and almost 6,000 followers on Instagram – with 265 pictures and videos posted on their Instagram account.
But the fake profile, which is private, has just 11 posts, and 35 followers.
The biography of the fake account reads: ‘NEW ACCOUNT. Maryanne & Tommy are UK’s first & currently the worlds longest married couple with #downsyndrome. Married for 25 years…’
Maryanne’s sister, Lindi Newman, 33, took to Facebook and Instagram to slam the fraudsters, who are allegedly messaging their followers asking for money in Tommy’s memory.
Maryanne’s family are said to be devastated by the social media account which poses as the 49-year-old widow
She wrote: ‘Some people are really sick. A fake Instagram account has been made in Maryanne and Tom’s name. They are messaging people asking for money.
‘Thank you to all their loyal followers for letting us know.’
In a later post, Lindi added: ‘The fake Instagram profile is called Maryannne&tommy with a lower case t. Their genuine one is: Maryanne&Tommy.
‘It also does not have any videos that will play because they are screenshots and not the original file. All pictures were added two days ago.
‘Their genuine Instagram account was started on the 16th February 2018, has 265 posts and 5,832 followers.
‘They are messaging people asking for money. We would NEVER ask you guys for money.’
The couple, from Shoebury, Essex, who both have Down’s Syndrome, made history last summer when they celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary
They are believed to be the longest-married couple of anyone with the condition
And, speaking to a local paper, Lindi said: ‘It’s so awful – they’ve now blocked us so we can’t see what they are doing and I think it’s an attempt to cover it up.
‘Lots of people have reported the fake accounts but they are so similar and I am concerned people will not know the difference.
‘We had about 50 messages from people who were contacted by these people and they were asking us if it was true.
‘They would have never asked for money like this and anything that was donated went to homeless charities or organisations.’
She added: ‘It’s disgusting that people have seen his passing as an opportunity. It’s only just a month since he died and we’ve got enough to deal with without all this too.
‘I just hope their followers do not stop supporting them, but I do not think anyone has given any money and most people knew it was a scam.
Maryanne’s sister Lindi told her local paper that the Instagram page had now blocked the family so they are unable to see what they are posting
Her sister said the family would never ask their followers for money and branded the conmen as ‘really sick’
‘Their real social media accounts were never about this but are about sharing their story.’
Lindi said that her sister is ‘not coping well at all’ since her husband passed away.
Writing on Facebook, she said: ‘She is having terrible dreams at night which she finds confusing, she says Tommy comes back to her, talks to her and hugs her.
‘She talks to him whenever she is alone, she sings to him and says prayers.
‘It is truly heartbreaking, our poor mum is exhausted but she will not allow Maryanne to deal with it by herself and is supporting her 24/7.’
Visit Maryanne & Tommy’s Instagram for any official fundraisers set up.