Happy ending to Christmas heartbreak

AFTER weeks of planning, one youngster's hopes of giving her father an extra special Christmas present were ruined when a photography company announced it had gone into administration.

AFTER weeks of planning, one youngster's hopes of giving her father an extra special Christmas present were ruined when a photography company announced it had gone into administration.

After moving away from Ipswich with her mother earlier this month, six-year-old Shannon Cater wanted to give her father a special keepsake for Christmas this year.

So her mother Louise arranged for pictures of Shannon to be taken at the Olan Mills photography studios in St Matthew's Street Ipswich, with the intention of letting the youngster wrap up a new framed photo for her Vince Edwards to open on Christmas Day.

But after paying £185 on photo gifts for several friends and family, the Caters were left empty-handed.

Despite paying up front for the pictures, the family haven't been given any of the prints they were expecting and now don't know if they will ever see them.

The Caters are just one of many Olan Mills customers who have been left without pictures since the company announced on December 14 it had gone into administration and all its 97 studios nationwide would be closed, with the loss of 950 jobs.

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“I thought I would go and get some pictures done for the family for Christmas,” said Ms Cater, 30.

“I was promised several times that they would be ready for Christmas and paid there and then. They promised my daughter the pictures would be done in time, she was really excited about it.”

Ms Cater, who split up with Shannon's father earlier this year, and her daughter have recently moved to Little Paxton in Cambridgeshire and so the framed photo of Shannon would have been extra special.

“They were all really nice to us at the time and said the pictures would be ready, but someone in there must have known what was happening. To me, it's not so much about the money, the worst thing was seeing my daughter's face when I told her. She was really looking forward to giving her daddy a present, and I am most angry about the fact that they looked a six-year-old in the face and lied to her. “When I told her, she just put her head down and the bottom lip started going, and I had to promise her we would get some more done another time, but this was the day before Christmas and I had to tell her that she couldn't give any of the presents we'd planned.”

No-one at Olan Mills was available for comment, but a statement on the company's website from administrators KPMG said they would not be offering refunds and whether a customer receives their pictures or not will depend on how far the company had got with processing them.

The statement reads: “All stores have now closed and we are unable to fulfil any outstanding orders or appointments. The administrators are also unable to make any refunds of monies paid.”

The statement also says: “We are in the process of fulfilling orders where photos had been taken but the order not yet completed and sent out.

“Orders that were in studios are in the process of being collected and are being taken to central locations and then coming back to the plant to be re-labelled and these will be distributed with the other orders.

“Unfortunately any orders where the pictures were on the computers in studios and not been sent through to the plant for production will not be able to be fulfilled.”

Have you been affected by the Olan Mills closure? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

WEBLINK: www.olanmills.co.uk

TOUCHED by the sad story of Shannon's ruined Christmas plans, Evening Star photographer Andy Abbott leapt into action to save the day.

Mr Abbott, the Evening Star's head of photography, suggested the Star should take some pictures of Shannon to replace those that have been lost.

He arranged for senior photographer Own Hines to visit Ms Cater and her daughter on Thursday for a special photo shoot.

The pictures will then be saved onto a CD so the Caters can have as many copies as they want printed - either now or in the future.

“I thought it would be a good thing for us to do and offered to arrange some pictures, Louise was speechless I knew it had made her day,” said Andy.

“It's great to think something that we can do will make someone so happy.”

A shocked Ms Cater said she was delighted to accept the offer.

“It is really kind and I'm very grateful,” she said.

“Shannon is very excited and it has really cheered her up.”