A frightful case of extortion on the part of an
uncle towards his niece, which resulted apparently in the suicide of the latter, was brought to light in a coroner's inquest held on Tuesday, at the Windsor Castle, Charles Terrace, Victoria Park, on the body of Sarah Phillips, aged twenty-one years, who was found to have drowned herself in the Regent's Canal. It appears that her uncle, Mr. Samuel Leech, had, without her husband's knowledge, been lending her money on interest at the rate of a shilling in the pound a week (i.e., 260 per cent. per annum) ; that this had beggared them, and that when the loan had reached £7, Mr. Leech offered to let her have £15 if she would pay £9 out of it, with £2 for interest, by the Wednesday before her death. She and her husband had not tasted food for two days, and when she applied to her uncle, he rattled the £15 in her face, and declined to lend her another shilling except on first-rate security, and even refused three shillings to obtain food with. Mr. Leech admitted that he was in the habit of 1. nding money and charging a shilling in the pound per week,—or 260 per cent. This is indeed a usurer,—i.e., not a man who charges a high rate of interest, but one who wrings advantages out of the want, incapacity, and feebleness of his victims. Taking-in an idiot would hardly be baser.