Page last updated at 13:56 GMT, Wednesday, 5 August 2009 14:56 UK

Woman paid 88,000 for 500 loan


Debra Wilson tells of the impact of her ordeal

A woman paid a loan shark £88,000 over seven years to pay off an initial debt of just £500, a court heard.

Debra Wilson, 40, paid the money to meet a debt taken out for a computer.

Robert Reynolds, 39, of Cotswold Terrace, Stanley, County Durham, admitted a charge of harassment with intent to commit violence.

He received a 51-week prison sentence, suspended for two years and was banned indefinitely from contacting the Wilson family.

Newcastle Crown Court heard that Mrs Wilson had first borrowed £500 from Reynolds, who was a family friend, just before Christmas 2000.

At one point Mrs Wilson and her husband Kevin were giving Reynolds more than £2,000 a month and were falling further into debt, the court heard.

Robert Reynolds
Reynolds was banned from contacting the family

They took out more loans from Reynolds and remortgaged their home to pay off council tax and utility bill debts.

The stress of meeting the financial demands put strain on Mrs Wilson and her family, the court heard.

In May 2005 she had a stroke followed by another in August of that year and then a brain haemorrhage.

Ann Richardson, prosecuting, said: "The final straw for Mrs Wilson was on January 23, 2008 when her daughter came home with a bag of food leftovers from her babysitting job, saying she was sick of being hungry.

"There was no gas, the house was freezing and Mrs Wilson went to the police."

Reynolds always maintained that he was acting as the go-between between the Wilson family and another man who he refused to name.

Passing sentence, Judge John Evans said: "You are a loan shark.

I just hope now he will have the decency to keep away from me and my family
Debra Wilson

"You are a person without a conscience and you should be stamped with a government health warning, as anybody who comes into contact with you will be at risk of damaging their health.

"Your behaviour towards that family is beneath contempt."

Speaking afterwards, Mrs Wilson said: "The last seven years we have lived a life of poverty. We've had no money, surviving with second-hand clothes, second-hand school uniforms.

"We reached a point where I'd had enough and needed to do something about it.

"It was very stressful trying to find the money to pay him with my husband working all the hours God sends.

"So it did have a very bad effect on my health. I just hope now he will have the decency to keep away from me and my family."

'No conscience'

After police arrested Reynolds, he told officers he was registered disabled because of arthritis and psoriasis and lived on benefits.

He was originally charged with blackmail but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of harassment with intent to commit violence.

Pc Natalie Hulse, who led the investigation, said she was disappointed that Reynolds had not been jailed.

She said: "The judge has got to pass sentence based on the rules they are given and because of Reynolds' health he has not gone to prison today."

She added: "You are dealing with a man with no conscience.

"Even in the police interviews he insisted there was a third party and he was the go-between.

"There was no third party - he was living off the Wilsons. His downfall was that he got greedy."

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'Ruthless' loan shark is jailed
05 Aug 09 |  England

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