Friday, March 20, 2009
The darker side of debt
A loan shark who raped an impoverished customer and threatened to petrol-bomb another woman's house has been jailed for seven years. Paul Nicholson, 39, squeezed hundreds of thousands of pounds from working-class families. If repayments were overdue he demanded his money by threatening debtors with the baseball bat, machete and knuckle dusters he owned. Warrington Crown Court has heard that Nicholson, who lived in a £1 million house next to a golf course in Delamere, Cheshire, forced one woman who owed him money to perform a sex act. He told one debtor: "Your priority is to pay me, not feed your kids." The couple targeted more than 800 poor people across Widnes and Runcorn in Cheshire, charging up to 150 per cent interest on loans.