NAT ROGERS will never forget the devastating moment he found his little brother dead.
Unravelling under the pressure of mounting debt, 20-year-old Jerome killed himself after two unpaid £65 fines spiralled to more than £1,000 within months.
After bailiffs started to pursue Jerome, he went online and searched for ways to end his life.
In March 2016, he was found hanged in woods where he played as a child after bailiffs clamped his only source of income – his motorcycle – which he needed to work as a courier.
Speaking exclusively to The Sun from his home in East Croydon, South London, Nat, 28, a contract engineer, said: “No one should have to find their little brother like that.
“When he went missing I knew where to look for him. My friend and I were desperately searching for him in the woods near our family home. It was raining and pitch black, the only light we had was from our mobile phones.
“I’ll never forget the moment I saw my rucksack in a makeshift hut, seconds later we found his body.
“It breaks my heart to think of him alone in those final moments but as difficult as it is to talk about, I cannot let his death be in vain.”
Jerome’s tragic tale has been turned into a BBC Three drama, Killed By My Debt, and is due to air today.
In the one-hour episode, we see the devastating effect debt had on his physical and mental health.
Nat says: “His asthma got worse with the stress and he would go online and watch videos from other vulnerable people who were drowning in debt.
“The day before he disappeared was Mother’s Day, we’d enjoyed a family roast dinner together.
“We’d been laughing and he seemed like himself, but behind closed doors he was crying and desperately trying to find money to pay off the debt.
“On the day he disappeared a bailiff had been outside for two-and-a-half hours. We now know that while the bailiff was outside, Jerome was alone in his room searching for ways to end his life and searching for payday loans.
Why we want to Stop The Credit Rip-Off
WE never want you to pay more than double the amount you've borrowed – whether it's for a new sofa or a loan to help pay your bills.
That’s why The Sun has launched a campaign calling for a cap on the total cost of rent-to-own loans and doorstep lending at double the original price or loan amount.
A similar cap was introduced for payday loans in 2015 and since then the number of people struggling with unmanageable debts to those lenders has more than halved, according to Citizens Advice.
People on the lowest incomes, living in the poorest places, are paying a poverty premium – up to 7 million people have resorted to high-cost credit, according to the Department for Work and Pensions.
People whose wages or benefits don’t stretch far enough need to borrow from rent-to-own or doorstep lenders to help pay for things such as an unexpected bill or to furnish their homes.
These come with exorbitant rates of interest – more than 1,500 per cent in some cases of doorstep lending.
It is scandalous that one mum who borrowed cash to help keep a roof over her family’s head and ended up paying back over THREE times the original amount.
It’s time to stop the credit rip-off.
Here’s what we demand:
- Cap on all repayable costs at double the item list prices (including fees, add-ons and interest)
- Ban on incentives for all sales staff
- Ban on discounts for existing customers to tempt them into more credit
- Companies to publish example interest rates and costs on all payment options
- Cap at double the original amount borrowed
- Stricter affordability checks
- Ban on discounts for existing customers to tempt them into more credit
“The next day he was found dead. It breaks my heart to think the bailiff was the last person to see my brother alive.”
The case is believed to be the first in which a suicide has been linked to a bailiff visit.
At the inquest, the coroner recorded a verdict of suicide and said the bailiff from Newlyn Plc – played by Craig Parkinson from Line Of Duty in the drama – had behaved reasonably.
But it was acknowledged that a bailiff waiting outside the house would have been intimidating and concern was expressed over some of Newlyn’s practises.
Now the Rogers family are campaigning for urgent reform to how bailiffs operate and want an independent regulator in place and recognised.
Jerome’s mum Tracey, 51, who lives with her daughter, Hollie, 21, and Macey, nine, says: “My son’s tragic suicide highlights faults in the bailiff industry and shows it needs major reforms. It is too draconian.
“Jerome asked Newlyns and the bailiff directly if he could set up a weekly affordable repayment plan and he was told ‘no’. Had he been allowed to make the repayment plan more affordable he may not have taken his own life, directly after a visit from the bailiff.According to Step Change Debt Charity there are around 3.3 million people in the UK experiencing severe problems with debt.
Two thirds of their clients in 2017 were under 40 and one in seven under 25.
STOP THE CREDIT RIP OFF
Alison Blackwood, policy advocate at the charity, said: “We want bailiffs to offer affordable repayment plans and there to be a review of bailiff fees.
“We also want to see the bailiff industry independently regulated, as well as a single, free accessible bailiff complaints procedure.”
Growing up, Nat tells how Jerome was a kind, quiet child who loved cars, motorbikes and playing games in the woods. The pair were inseparable and always looked out for one another.
Jerome was over the moon when he landed his first job working for City Sprint as a courier, transporting blood and documents to hospitals.
He says: “He was excited to start earning his own money and because he loved riding his motorcycle, it meant he could earn money while doing what he loved.”
Unbeknown to Nat at the time, Jerome was struggling to make ends meet.
How to cut the cost of your debt
IF you're in large amounts of debt it can be really worrying. Here are some tips from Citizens Advice on how you can take action.
Check your bank balance on a regular basis – knowing your spending patterns is the first step to managing your money
Work out your budget – by writing down your income and taking away your essential bills such as food and transport
If you have money left over, plan in advance what else you’ll spend or save. If you don’t, look at ways to cut your costs
Pay off more than the minimum – If you’ve got credit card debts aim to pay off more than the minimum amount on your credit card each month to bring down your bill quicker
Pay your most expensive credit card sooner – If you have more than one credit card and can’t pay them off in full each month, prioritise the most expensive card (the one with the highest interest rate)
Prioritise your debts – If you’ve got several debts and you can’t afford to pay them all it’s important to prioritise them
Your rent, mortgage, council tax and energy bills should be paid first because the consequences can be more serious if you don’t pay
Get advice – If you’re struggling to pay your debts month after month it’s important you get advice as soon as possible, before they build up even further
Groups like Citizens Advice and Money Advice Trust can help you prioritise and negotiate with your creditors to offer you more affordable repayment plans
“He was a private person,” he continues, “he wouldn’t have wanted people to know he was in financial difficulty.
“His job wasn’t secure and he was on a zero hours contract so his weekly take home pay at the time he was being pursued by bailiffs was between zero to £71.
On March 7, bailiffs returned to seize Jerome’s beloved bike after he failed to meet the repayment deadline.
“He was getting on his bike to go to work when the bailiff came round the corner,” explains Nat, “the bailiff told him he was breaking the law if he took the bike as it now belonged to them so he would call the police and get him done for theft.”
Jerome’s brother Nat tells The Sun how he was a kind, quiet child who loved cars, motorbikes and playing games in the woods[/caption]
Jerome explains: “You cannot seize or clamp a tool of trade unless it’s over £1,350.
“In the inquest it emerged they hadn’t carried out any valuation of the bike, they told the inquest they weren’t required to.”
Later Honda said the bike was only worth £400, meaning they were legally not allowed to clamp it or seize it.
“Newlyn bailiffs should be held accountable for this,” he continues, “had this not happened, my brother could be alive today.”
How to get help for free
THERE are lots of groups who can help you with your problem debts.
- Citizens Advice – 0808 800 9060
- StepChange – 0800 138 1111
- National Debtline – 0808 808 4000
Speak to one of these organisations – don’t be tempted to use a claims managment firm that will claim it can write-off lots of your debts in return for a large up-front fee.
Jerome walked out of the family home after texting his girlfriend to say he loved her. The next day, he was found dead.
Nat says: “When I heard he was missing I checked his bedroom and all his belongings were still there – including his bank cards. So I knew he could only have gone somewhere nearby and I know how much he loved the woods.
“After we discovered Jerome’s search history on his laptop and the multiple searches on suicide I collapsed crying and had to hold onto railings to support myself.”
Heartbreakingly, Nat found his little brother’s body two hours later in the woods near their home.
“It was the worst moment of my life,” he continues, tearfully. “I’ll never forget it. He had so much to live for, I wish I had known so I could have protected him. But we will continue to fight for justice.”
HOW TO GET HELP WITH DEBT
Two years on, their younger sister Hollie, 21, is having counselling to deal with her brother’s tragic death.
Nat says: “Jerome’s death has left a huge hole in our hearts but we have to keep going. Helping the BBC put together the factual drama will help highlight the plight of those struggling with debt and in desperate situations. We hope his story can help save others.”
A spokesperson from Newlyn said: “Newlyn acted in accordance with best practice and the Coroner found that our enforcement agent acted in a lawful and appropriate manner. However, we regret that debt may have contributed to the tragic circumstances and would like to reiterate our sympathy to the family of Mr Rogers.”
Killed By My Debt is available to watch from 10am on BBC Three via BBC iPlayer.
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