-If the Coles cannot pay back £5 million debt by April, the bank has warned them their home, business and even furniture will be seized and sold off
-Charles Cole took out a £3.3m loan to invest in land that will never be developed
-Family are now 'virtually penniless'
By ALISON SMITH SQUIRE
Fearing the future: Charles and Iona Cole with children (from left) Elizabeth, May, Charity and Hedley
Five years ago, Charles and Iona Cole led a gilded life that most people could only dream of. Home was a £2.25 million Devon manor house set in 214 acres, with his and hers luxury cars on the sweeping driveway, not to mention the portfolio of 84 buy-to-let properties they owned in Yorkshire.
With their four children — Hedley, Elizabeth, May and Charity — thriving at prestigious public schools, life was good. Very good.
Today, however, the Coles face the very real prospect of losing everything. If they cannot pay back a £5 million debt by April, the bank has warned them their home, business and even their furniture will be seized and sold off. The trouble is, Charles says he’s ‘virtually penniless’.
Investment: In 2008 a Devon manor house - which had been in the family until World War II - came on the market and Charles and Iona snapped it up mortgage-free for £580,000
There were no presents at Christmas. Clothes come from charity shops, and Iona bargain-hunts for the best supermarket special offers to feed her family, supplemented by vegetables grown in the garden.
In other words, the sort of economy measures that many families have had to face, with the current squeeze on household spending.
Stay another day? The family may lose their Devon home thanks to their financial situation
But the Coles are a far from typical family. And while their plight may elicit little sympathy in the wider world (at one point Charles says it is fortunate their home has inglenook fireplaces in every room, so they can heat it using trees from the estate) the story of their descent into a financial quagmire is a vivid illustration of how precarious even the most comfortable of existences can be.
School fees: The Cole family paid out hundreds of thousands of pounds to send their children to private schools
Privileged... but it's all slipping through their hands and the future looks bleak for the Cole family
Taking action: In an attempt to retrieve the money he has lost, Charles is pursuing a legal case for compensation