Following a recent survey of marine wildlife off the coast of Cornwall police are investigating reports than an illegal money-lender, or ‘loan shark’, may have been sighted patrolling shallow waters in Newquay bay. Rarely seen outside their usual inner-city habitats, it is thought this specimen may have been lured here by increased activity on the beaches from stay-at-home holidaymakers, and the smell of money that in other less turbulent years would have found shelter in tills on the Costa del Sol.
Tourist Claire Speight believes she was approached by the loan shark whilst paddling in the sea with her four year old son. “It was really scary. We were just about to come out of the water when he came up to me, flashed his teeth, and asked if I needed any spare cash. I didn’t know what to do for a minute so we played dead and when that didn’t work we just paddled as fast as we could to the safety of the beach, but he was quite persistent, chasing after us talking about easy payments and quibble-free terms. I really don’t know how we managed to get away.’
Another holidaymaker, Grant Evans, reported a similar experience further up the coast near Mawgan Porth. He said; ‘I was having a conversation with the wife about where we should eat that night and how many of the local restaurants were too expensive. After that I went for a swim and the next thing I knew I was being asked if I needed some money to ‘treat the wife’. You’ve got to watch these predators; not only have they got a nose for cash, see. They’ve also got verrry good hearing. I was lucky, but it’s a warning to others, and thank God I had the thought of that lasagna we still had in the fridge to get me through.’
Coastguard Dave Riches confirmed extra patrols were operating on some beaches in a bid to catch or scare off the loan sharks before they can strike. ‘We have big signs up telling bathers to stay within the flags and to look out for strong currents and illegal money-lending, and other bigger signs with ‘OFT’ written on them to wave at the sea and ward them off, although we are stepping up our state of alert as a result of the latest sightings. But we urge holidaymakers not to worry; these sharks should be harmless as long as people don’t touch them, annoy them or agree terms with them over five years at two hundred percent p.a.’
31st July 2008