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He was at ‘breaking point’ over £22k debt says partner
A MAN whose body washed up on a Devon beach was “at breaking point” after racking up £22,000 of debt, his grieving partner says.
Mystery still surrounds the death of Clifford John Thorne, – known as John – following his inquest at Oxfordshire Coroner’s Court on Wednesday.
He had amassed the debts after buying a timeshare property in Tenerife in 2001.
Mr Thorne and his partner only went there three times – but the caretaker built up large debts which he was unable to pay. Mr Thorne – a retired car factory worker at Cowley who went on to work as a caretaker at Oxford’s St Edmund Hall – was paying £442 per month and £304 per month from two bank accounts for the timeshare.
Guilia Grassi, his partner of 26 years, told the Oxford Mail that she had no idea if she would have to pay the debt.
She said Mr Thorne had built up the debt after buying the timeshare and had received a letter from a debt collection company the day before he went missing.
The 63-year-old said he was due to see his bank manager on the day he disappeared.
“It was a tremendous stress on him,” she said. “But he never ever said it wasn’t worth living.
“Most likely it probably did drive him to a point, because he was so worried.
“On the Sunday before he went missing, he was at breaking point.
“He couldn’t face going to the bank. He was so worried about this debt.”
Oxfordshire coroner Darren Salter said it was “possible” that he had intended to kill himself – but said there was not enough evidence for him to be sure.
The court heard that the grandfather-of-three left his Jericho home in January 2012 on the day he was supposed to have a meeting with his bank to discuss his debt.
That morning, he told Ms Grassi he was going to get a newspaper and never returned.
His body was found at Cockle Sands, Exmouth in Devon, on July 18, 2012, but he was only identified earlier this year from DNA details placed on a missing persons database.
He had disappeared previously for a month in 2010 because of financial worries.
Mr Thorne’s body was found two days after an attempt was made to withdraw cash from his empty bank account at an ATM in Weymouth in Dorset.
Now Ms Grassi has warned others to seek help if in debt.
“Please don’t get into this situation,” she said. “Just go and get help to sort it out.”
But she remains heartbroken over his death.
“He was the most lovable person – always happy and jolly,” she said.
“He was everybody’s friend, he would help everybody in every way.”
At the conclusion of the inquest into his death, Oxfordshire coroner Darren Salter said: “It seems to me that John drowned, but if one takes all the circumstances into account I don’t have the evidence I need to make a firm finding.”
He added: “There is no evidence to the required standard to return a verdict of suicide.
“It is possible. We know there were financial concerns.
“It is possible that is what he intended to do. But there is not enough evidence.”
He added there was also not enough evidence for him to return a verdict of accident or natural causes.
Where to go for debt advice
Debt advice is available from:
Oxford Citizens’ Advice Bureau – 08444 111 444
Agnes Smith Advice Centre, Blackbird Leys – 01865 770 206
Rose Hill and Donnington Advice Centre – 01865 438 634
Barton Advice Centre – 01865 744 152