Coroner: Banks ‘pushing people over the edge’

Philip De Vere Hunt

A coroner in the suicide of a prominent businessman has said someone should “shout stop” to financial institutions whom he said “can push a person over the edge” in the way they pursue debts.

The comments were made at the inquest into the death of developer and auctioneer Philip De Vere Hunt, 64, who was found dead at his cattle mart property in Cashel, Co Tipperary, on Dec 18, 2012.

It was reported earlier this year that Nama was suing Mr De Vere Hunt, of Ardmayle House, Cashel, for a debt of €30m associated with a bank loan which was advanced for a development project.

Yesterday’s inquest in Clonmel heard that the developer and his legal team held several meetings with Nama regarding the debt but, according to coroner Paul Morris, Mr De Vere Hunt’s dealings with the agency “brought him to the end of his tether”.

Before he ended his life, the businessman left a “very, very sad note” which described his “sense of desperation” on the matter, Mr Morris said, and for his family.

He feared that the farm owned by the De Vere Hunts could be taken away from them. Mr Morris said “it’s time that someone shouted stop” regarding the banks’ approach to debtors.

The developer’s body was found by his solicitor, Aidan Leahy, on Dec 18 last, at the mart owned by the De Vere Hunt family.

The coroner said banks in general “treat you as a hero when things go well, and when things go wrong they have no mercy”.

“They speak of a moral hazard when it comes to giving people concessions, but they live in a moral vacuum themselves. They make an idol of money and sacrifice the dignity of the human being.”

He said banks have a “Darwinian” or survival of the fittest approach, to the way they treat people in difficulty: “They treat you as a celebrity while you’re building up money and then, when things go wrong, they’re so aggressive that they can push a person over the edge.”

Mr De Vere Hunt’s note was not read into evidence yesterday but the coroner took account of its contents when dealing with the case.

The inquest found that Mr De Vere Hunt died as a result of cerebral hypoxia, consistent with suicide.

The coroner quoted comments made by Pope Francis at a soup kitchen in Rome on Wednesday: “A savage capitalism has taught the logic of profit at any cost, of giving in order to get, of exploitation without thinking of people... and we see the results in the crisis we are experiencing.”

Mr De Vere Hunt’s wife Annette and other family members were present at the inquest.


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