A terminally ill girl has got her wish to swim with dolphins despite her father stealing her £3,500 charity fund.

Ashanti Elliot Smith, 11, suffers from Hutchinson Gildford Progeria – a rare ageing disease that means she is not expected to live past the age of 15.

She and her mother Phoebe Smith have flown out to Florida after her father was sentenced to three years in prison.

Ms Smith, from Burgess Hill, was unavailable to speak yesterday before flying out but told national newspapers “it means everything in the world”.

Father Albi Elliot was sentenced at Chichester Crown Court after stealing the £3,500 charity fund which had been raised by the Sussex British Motorcycle Owners Club (SBMOC).

The charity got involved with the family in 2009 and agreed to raise the money so Ashanti could fulfil her dream.

Elliot accepted the £3,500 cheque in December 2010 but it was revealed none of the money had got back to the family.

Elliot had been spending the money on himself, including on trips to Tesco and for his own holidays.

The 44-year-old, of Vines Cross, Heathfield, was sentenced after being found guilty of fraud by a jury.

DC Hutchinson said; "Elliott kept the money and spent it on himself, including his own holidays and general living expenses. I would like to thank all the witnesses involved that have assisted in getting to a guilty verdict."

Clive Etherington, social secretary for SBMOC, said: “I was absolutely disgusted and so were the other club members to think we had been deceived.

“Albi knew what he was going to do with that money. When we produced the giant cheque he asked our treasurer to have a small one made out to A Elliot, which is his and Ashanti’s initial, so we never twigged at the time until we realised her mother had not seen any of the money.”

He added that because of the fraud the SBMOC has now elected to not sponsor individuals and said: “I think that it’s terrible that because of his actions he has jeopardised the wishes of terminally ill children.”