MAN IN DEBT TO LOAN SHARKS KILLED HIMSELF

A HAIRDRESSER killed himself after being regularly beaten by loan shark heavies.

Leonard Jagne, known as Lennie, turned to the money lenders for help when his debts spiralled out of control, an inquest heard.

But the 41-year-old ended up even deeper in debt and was frequently attacked when debt collectors came for the repayments.

He was found dead at his flat in Cavendish Place in February. He had taken a massive overdose of anti-depressants and mood stabilising drugs.

The inquest at Eastbourne on Tuesday heard how African-born Lennie, a manic depressive, had a history of mental health problems and tried to take his own life on numerous occasions in the past.

But his friend and neighbour, Pauline Cole, said it was his fear of the loan shark heavies that drove him to take the fatal overdose in February.

She said Lennie had a homosexual relationship with a man, who was not named during the inquest, and it was him who had introduced Lennie to the loan sharks.

Ms Cole told the inquest, "That man who Lennie had the relationship with said he knew someone who would lend him money but that person was a loan shark and instead of bringing his debt down, it went up.

"When Lennie didn't have any money to give the debt collectors, he would be beaten.

"A big black shiny car with black windows would turn up, pick Lennie up and take him to get his repayment money.

"They would bring him back, take him into his flat and slap him about. I saw it with my own eyes.

"After they left he would be bruised with a cut lip. He was absolutely petrified."

Ms Cole broke down in tears as she said she had urged Lennie to get help from the authorities. "I wanted him to report the man he had the relationship with and the other men who beat him up to the police but he said he was too scared," added Ms Cole.

"There are people walking round that caused Lennie to do what he did and they are getting away with it."

East Sussex Coroner Alan Craze asked Ms Cole not to name the man Lennie had the relationship with in open court as he was not there to defend himself.

Ms Cole alleged the man had regularly beaten Lennie during their relationship and when their liaison ended would stand outside the flat in Cavendish Place shouting abuse.

The inquest heard Lennie had a history of alcohol dependency and cannabis and cocaine abuse and would frequently take too many of his prescribed tablets.

He was under the care of the community mental health team at St Mary's House in Eastbourne and it was his care workers who became worried when they could not get in touch with him.

Caroline Hookway from St Mary's House and Helen Ward, a tenancy support co-ordinator from Southdown Housing, found Lennie dead in a chair in his top floor flat.

In a statement read to the inquest, Caroline Hookway said Lennie's foster family in London contacted her to say they had received a suicide letter in the post from him.

The letter said, "I can't take it any more. By the time you read this I will be dead."

Recording a verdict of suicide, Mr Craze said he had found the evidence disturbing.

He added, "I have heard some disturbing evidence about the events which had happened in the last few months of Lennie's life.

"He was considerably frightened and unhappy about what was being done to him in relation to a loan.

"It's such a pity the police were not involved because they are the only people who could have done something about it.

"If they had been involved the probability is he would still be with us."