A father struggling to cope with mounting debts to payday loan companies died after setting himself on fire, an inquest has heard.
In the hours before his death, Antony Breeze was bombarded with calls and text messages from three different loan firms reminding him he owed them £1,600. On the day he ended his life, the 36-year-old told his girlfriend, Amanda Lowe, that he was buying petrol for her father’s lawnmower. Minutes later he went to a secluded alleyway near his home in Horwich, Bolton, where he set himself on fire.
A man who tried to help him told the inquest that before being put into the ambulance Mr Breeze said to him ‘I’ve had enough. I’m in debt’. He was taken to Wythenshawe Hospital, Manchester, but died a few hours later after suffering burns over 73 per cent of his body.
Miss Lowe said: ‘He had phone calls all night on Thursday night, his phone never stopped ringing, he wouldn’t tell me who it was. He went into the bathroom, I didn’t know who it was.’
She added: ‘I can’t understand why he did it.’
Mr Breeze owed money to several lenders, including Keyes Whitlock and Co, Mobile Money Ltd, 247 Moneybox.com, Cash Genie and Valour Loans.
After his death, the companies’ letters were sent to his fathers home demanding payments.
Mr Breeze worked six days a week to try and earn enough to pay off the debts while also providing for Miss Lowe and their six-year-old daughter, Amy. However, he often had to borrow money to make ends meet and, despite help from his father-in-law, he lost weight and went to see a debt counsellor.
The inquest also heard he was worried about funding a future wedding and possibly another baby. Mr Breeze’s sister Caroline Hedley also said he appeared worried by possible redundancy and renovating his home.
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.