The letter from law firm Walker Morris to Tony MacDonald offered condolences on the recent death of his old university friend.
Having got the pleasantries out the way, it went on to the matter of mortgage arrears, telling Tony: “We propose to commence litigation proceedings against you.”
Which is always nice to hear shortly after suffering a bereavement.
That letter was just another twist in a bizarre saga that has left taxi driver Tony reeling.
A couple of months earlier he had been told of the death of someone he had known since he was a student, a woman called Asmi Moore, who worked as a clairvoyant under the name Pumpi Moore.
According to NRAM, the current version of former bank Northern Rock, Tony was now liable for the mortgage repayments on her house because he was the joint mortgage holder.
Which was news to Tony.
He had been in occasional contact with Pumpi Moore over the years but he lived in Eastbourne on the East Sussex coast.
She, meanwhile, had lived in a house in Barnet, North London, that he’d rarely visited, let alone lived in.
Now he was being held responsible for a mortgage of almost £300,000 which was £21,000 in arrears.
A Northern Rock mortgage deed dating back to 2007 has Pumpi’s name and signature on it, and also his own.
The signature, says Tony, is a crude forgery.
The document also calls him “Anthony”, a name he has never used – even his birth certificate has him as Tony.
He tried explaining to NRAM that he knew nothing about this until hearing of Pumpi’s death this January, saying she must have added him to the mortgage application without his knowledge because she could not have got the loan alone, being a clairvoyant in sporadic work.
NRAM refused to accept this, and a customer services adviser told him: “I am unable to agree we have made an error in this instance.”
It then handed debt collection to Walker Morris, they of the hugely insincere expression of condolensces.
Their letter to Tony acknowledged that he claimed that the mortgage had been fraudulently obtained but said: “until such time that evidence is received to support the same, you remain joint and severally liable.”
In other words, the Walker Morris was saying that it up to Tony to prove his his innocence.
“Northern Rock, or NRAM as they are now, are not listening,” says Tony. “The mortgage costs are ramping up and despite protesting I’m still being relentlessly pursued.
“I feel I have been used as a scapegoat for their inefficiency during a lax financial regulatory period where improper mortgages were issued to increase company profit.
“This whole situation is very stressful. I am just an ordinary individual with little financial knowledge and a huge feeling of being powerless against this large financial corporation.”
According to the paperwork, the broker who arranged the mortgage was Tolulope Olakanpo of an East London legal firm.
I wrote about Olakanpo in 2009 over a house purchase scam and she was struck-off the roll of solicitors the same year.
I have asked her about her role in Tony’s mortgage nightmare but she has not replied to me, and nor has Leeds-based Walker Morris.
NRAM did get back to me to say that it could not comment because much of its mortgage business, including Tony’s, had been sold to another lender, Heliodor Mortgages.
Now at last things are hopefully looking up and Tony’s complaint is getting the attention it deserves.
“We take the issue of alleged fraud extremely seriously, and are working with Mr MacDonald and his representatives to investigate his situation and bring the matter to a close as soon as possible,” said Heliodor.