Page last updated at 18:42 GMT, Thursday, 12 February 2009

'Banking crisis killed my father'

By Allan Little
BBC News

Major Bill Foxton
The retired Army officer had worked in Oman, Afghanistan, Bosnia and Kosovo

Willard Foxton, whose father killed himself after losing his entire life savings in the alleged Madoff fraud scandal, has spoken to the BBC about his grief and anger.

To what depths of despair must a man sink, to walk calmly into a public park near his home, lie down on a bench, put a gun to his head and pull the trigger?

It is the question the family of retired Army officer Bill Foxton must now confront. For on Tuesday afternoon, in broad daylight, that is precisely what he did.

It is a tale of our times. Mr Foxton's family believe he is - without question - the victim of the banking crisis.

A week before his death, Mr Foxton called his 28-year-old son Willard and told him he had lost all the family money - his entire life savings, close probably to 1m.

"He told me he was in a fight with his banks. He'd put his money in two hedge funds but they weren't returning his calls because their offices had been closed down," he said.

"The money had all been invested with Bernie Madoff. He was more shaken then I'd ever heard him".

'Walking away'

And Bill Foxton was no stranger to risk. Since retiring from the British army in the 1970s, he had spent a 30-year career in the defence and security industries.

He had worked in the world's conflict zones - Oman, Bosnia, Kosovo and, until a few months ago, Afghanistan. In 1999 he was awarded the OBE for his work in Kosovo.

Willard Foxton
It's the little people who are left to pick up the pieces

He had been highly paid and had accrued a nest egg and retired in November at the age of 65.

A month later, Bernie Madoff was arrested. The fund he had run, which had been offering high rates of return to investors, turned out to be bogus.

Billions of dollars of clients' money had disappeared. Mr Madoff is under house arrest and, at the age of 70, faces up to 20 years in jail.

Willard Foxton believes his father is the victim not just of Bernie Madoff but of the failures of the banking industry in general. He contrasts his father's fate with that of many leading bankers.

"It's the little people who are left to pick up the pieces," he said.

"They're all retiring. Even the ones who have wrecked their banks completely are walking away with millions of pounds.

"Ultimately they're not getting a phone call saying, 'Your father's shot [him]self'."

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