More blood on the hands of bankers.
Father dies in a fireball after being hounded by payday loan companies over £1,600 debt
- Antony Breeze, 36, from Bolton, died saying: ‘I’ve had enough’
- Investigations revealed he owed cash to several loan companies
- Inquest heardhe often had to borrow money to make ends meet
- In the hour before he died, Mr Breeze received texts from three of them
By Jaya Narain
PUBLISHED: 04:22 EST, 15 May 2013 | UPDATED: 19:38 EST, 15 May 2013
Antony Breeze with his partner Amanda Lowe. An inquest heard how Mr Breeze, 36, of Horwich, Bolton, set himself on fire after getting into debt with payday loan firms
A debt-ridden father doused himself in petrol and turned himself into a human fireball after being harassed for money by payday loan firms.
Antony Breeze, 36, died after setting himself alight, telling passers-by who tried to extinguish the flames: ‘I’ve had enough.’
In the hours before the tragedy Mr Breeze, who owed around £1,600, was bombarded with text messages about his arrears, an inquest heard.
The next day he went out, telling his girlfriend he was getting petrol for a lawnmower.
Minutes later he was found screaming and in flames on a pathway.
He had been so worried about the debts that he lost a stone in weight in just two weeks, relatives said.
Mr Breeze and his partner of nine years, Amanda Lowe, had a six-year-old daughter, Amy, and were planning to marry.
Police investigating his death found he owed money to several lenders, including Keyes Whitlock and Co, Mobile Money Ltd, 247 Moneybox.com, Cash Genie and Valour Loans.
Miss Lowe said that the night before he died on August 3 last year he had received a stream of calls and texts from loan firms, although he refused to tell her which ones were pestering him.
She added: ‘He had calls all night on Thursday, his phone never stopped ringing, he wouldn’t tell me who it was.
‘He went into the bathroom.’
The next day Mr Breeze played with Amy before going to withdraw £30 from a cash machine.
He then went out again, telling Miss Lowe he was getting fuel for her father’s mower.
While he was gone she called him to ask when he would be home.
Mr Breeze bought £3 of petrol in a can from a Texaco garage before walking to a secluded track. Fifteen minutes later, electrician Paul Tunnah heard screams as Mr Breeze emerged in a fireball.
Paul Tunnah (left) who tried to help Mr Breeze as he was burning and Amanda Lowe (right) leaving Bolton Coroner’s Court after hearing details of how her partner died
The path at the bottom of Gooch Street, Horwich, near Bolton where Mr Breeze was found
AGGRESSIVE DEBT COLLECTORS OR WAY OUT OF MONEY PROBLEMS?
The death of Antony Breeze comes at a time of intense criticism of the payday loans industry.
Last week two payday lenders were ordered to surrender their trading licences after a crackdown by the Office of Fair Trading.
The OFT said that it is also currently investigating three more payday loans firms for bad business practices and they too could be shut down. The OFT could not name them for legal reasons.
The Payday Loan Company Limited – which operates under a number of names including Cashnet and Paydayloans.co.uk – and Anfield Cheque Cashing Centre have both given up their consumer credit licences and will no longer be able to trade.
Last month the consumer body sent letters to 50 leading payday lenders asking them to take immediate action to overhaul their businesses.
The OFT accused firms of failing to conduct adequate assessments to see if applicants can afford loans, failing to explain how payments will be collected, aggressive debt collection techniques and not treating borrowers with sensitivity and patience.
The Citizens Advice Bureau has also accused lenders of pushing people into debt by failing to check that borrowers can afford to repay loan.
In a survey of 1,270 payday loan borrowers, with loans from 87 payday lenders, 65 per cent of people did not get asked about their financial situation when taking it out, according to research by the CAB.
Mr Tunnah, who was seriously burned trying to save Mr Breeze, said: ‘I took my top off to try put out the flames.
‘He was conscious throughout, from when I first saw him to leaving in the ambulance.
‘I asked him what had happened and he said, “I’ve had enough. I’m in debt and poured petrol over myself”.
‘He did say he wanted to see his daughter, but I said it would be cruel – at this stage he was unrecognisable.’
Mr Breeze was taken to hospital but died hours later from 73 per cent burns.
The inquest in Bolton heard that loan firms then wrote to his father asking for his debts to be repaid.
Miss Lowe, from Horwich, told the hearing the couple had argued during the week before the tragedy, but had resolved their problems.
Last night his family said Mr Breeze had also been worried that he might lose his job as a driver for an engineering firm.
His sister, Caroline Hedley, said: ‘He worked very hard. He worked six days a week.’
But she added that he would often borrow money when he struggled to make ends meet.
Some debts were paid off by Miss Lowe’s father and Mr Breeze is thought to have seen a debt counsellor.
Recording an open verdict, deputy coroner Alan Walsh said: ‘He worked hard and provided for his family.
‘But he worried about the finances of the family.’
The news comes a week after the Office of Fair Trading told two payday lenders to surrender their trading licences.
It is also investigating three others for bad business practices and has written to 50 payday lenders telling them to overhaul their practices.