A Northampton man found dead on Christmas Day last year had taken his life shortly after becoming the victim of an organised money laundering scam, an inquest heard.
Patson Simbarashe Magaya, otherwise known as Simba, was found dead 300 yards from his home in High Street, Collingtree on Christmas Day 2015.
But an inquest at Northampton General Hospital yesterday heard how the kind-hearted former receptionist at St Andrews Healthcare, had likely been recruited as a “mule” in a PayPal money-laundering scam against his will, which assistant coroner Hassan Shah believed contributed to his decision to commit suicide.
Mr Shah said: “I make no judgement as to whether Mr Magaya was a willing participant or an innocent victim in this. Either way, it was a serious matter and would have likely caused a lot of anguish and worry.”
The inquest heard evidence from fraud investigator DCI James Wright, who interviewed Mr Magaya on the day he went missing on December 20.
Mr Magaya told him he had been visited by a gang claiming to be conducting a “survey” for online payment firm, PayPal, in the weeks before his death.
But after handing them his Paypal details the gang returned to Mr Magaya’s house, blackmailing him into taking part in a money-laundering scam where they would pump money into his account for him to withdraw as cash.
Mr Magaya told DCI Wright he had been made to go to London on December 14 with two gang members, who made him “dress smart” and withdraw around £18,000. If not, they would harm his girlfriend.
Shortly after the interview with police at his home on December 20, Mr Magaya wrote a suicide note and left the house. He was not seen again and his suicide letter read: “I messed up. I’m sorry.”
DCI Wright said such scams often leave their victims thousands of pounds in debt.
Later investigations found Simba Magaya had indeed travelled from Northampton station to London Euston on December 14 and could be seen on CCTV entering financial establishments and withdrawing money while two men looked on.
The gang had given him a mobile phone and told him to await instructions on that day, the inquest heard.
A mobile phone message sent by him to one of the gang members in the days before he died read “you have ruined my life”.
But DCI Wright said: “Many don’t report this sort of thing to police, knowing they were involved in some sort of criminal activity.” The officer said arrests had been made in connection with the incident.
Since Mr Magaya’s death, more than 1,000 people have joined a Facebook group to pay tribute to him.
At the inquest, his partner said ‘Simba’ was known for his kindness and one day even allowed a stranded M1 driver to come back to their house to charge up his mobile phone.
“He made friends with all kinds of people,” she said. “During our time in Collingtree he made friends with all our neighbours,” she added.