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In Mr Fleming’s case, his interest-only mortgage repayments nearly tripled after his mortgage was sold in 2015 – from £670 a month to as much as £1,760 some months. Life became centred around scraping enough money together to meet his monthly payments.

One Friday in the summer of 2019, he left his home with the sole purpose of ending his life. He had planned to drive his car – with himself in it – off the top of a cliff and into the freezing sea.

“I just wanted to put an end to it all. I thought, ‘Best if I weren’t here’. I just wanted to be free of the pain and the shame. We were trapped with whatever they wanted us to pay. I was constantly on the phone trying to get a better deal.”

In the end, Mr Fleming drove just short of the cliff-edge. The grandfather of two, now 68, decided to battle on.

But at least three suicides have been reported in relation to the mortgage prisoner scandal, according to surveys carried out by the charity UK Mortgage Prisoners Group.

Many are still suffering. One woman told The Telegraph she was unable to have children for fear of the financial repercussions. Others with children have said the “mental torture” has ruined their kids’ upbringings and forced them to forgo family holidays for nearly 15 years.

One man has fought 13 repossession attempts to date. Another broke down in tears at a parliamentary meeting in front of MPs in February, attended by The Telegraph, recalling the day his son asked him: “Daddy, are we poor?”

‘Loans sold to the highest bidder’

The Government oversaw the sale of at least four big batches of mortgages after it assumed ownership of loans left behind by the collapse of Northern Rock and Bradford & Bingley in 2010. 

The goal was to repay £44bn of debt to the Treasury “as soon as possible” and “maximise value for the taxpayer”. The sales took place in October 2014, November 2015, April 2019 and February 2021.

In February 2019, Lord Sharkey, a member of the House of Lords, warned the Government not to sell any more loans to firms that wouldn’t let borrowers remortgage – saying it would just leave more people “trapped” on unaffordable rates.

But what followed were more sales of mortgage prisoners to inactive firms worth £10bn which were backed by the Treasury. 

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