Snooker player Willie Thorne was being hounded by loan sharks in the years before his death.
The tragic star had got himself in hock to heavies after racking up gambling debts. Sports promoter Barry Hearn revealed Willie pleaded with him for help, so he gave him £25,000 to pay them off.
The 73-year-old, inset, said: “He came to see me about helping him out in 2017 when he explained he had serious problems with some heavy-handed people that wanted paying. He begged me for a £25,000 loan and promised he would pay it back at the end of the World Championship from his BBC commentator’s fees.
“I wrote him a cheque and, as I handed it over to him I said, ‘Willie, we both know I am never going to see this again, which is fine, but this is the last time you’ll ever get a penny from me.’
“Of course, Willie professed that it was only a short-term loan and gave me a cheque dated to the final day of the World Championship. That cheque is still bouncing around somewhere.
“Actually, it was a good move in the long run as Willie came time and time again for further loans and I was able to say I told you, I’m never going to lend you another penny. A great player and much missed, but a very weak person.
“Firefighting when players had problems was a big part of my role, especially with Jimmy White.”
Dubbed “Mr Maximum” in his pomp, Thorne was 66 when he died two years ago after health battles. But Barry said in his new book My Life that Thorne was ruined by getting hooked on bookies.
He said: “Willie was such a lovely man, but like all addicts he never told even himself the truth and he piled up debts with just about everybody. It wasn’t as if he was any good at gambling. He once said, ‘You know, in a one-horse race I would finish runner-up.’"