More than £600,000 of supposedly-protected clients' money held by a debt management company has gone missing, a BBC investigation has revealed.
The money was held by Somerset-based DebtDr on behalf of more than 80 clients to pay off their creditors.
Liquidators are investigating the company, which ceased trading in April.
The BBC's Inside Out West programme tracked down director Jeremy Hockley, 42, to Yeovil, where he now helps run a nightclub. He declined to comment.
'Wrecked my life'
Among those clients owed money is writer Carol Gould, 58, from London, who gave the company, £21,500, to hold in a protected client account.
The money was the critical illness insurance pay-out Ms Gould received after being diagnosed with cancer.
"I don't think I will ever see my money and I don't think anyone else will," she said.
"Basically, I'm penniless now because of DebtDr so I am afraid I have to say, in a way, they wrecked my life."
Mr Hockley, a former bankrupt, ran DebtDr in South Petherton as the trading name of Hermes Financial Solutions Ltd.
For a fee, the company helped clients to pay off their creditors and, in many cases, took a lump sum from them to offer as a full and final settlement of their debts.
In many cases, clients borrowed the money to give to DebtDr to use in its negotiations with creditors.
When the company went bust, none of the money was returned to clients and Mr Hockley failed to account for its whereabouts.
Robin Sealey, from Bideford in Devon, was one of the independent financial advisors who referred clients to DebtDr.
"The website went down and any attempt to contact the head office was met with no response," he said of the company's surprise closure.
"I had no contact whatsoever from Jeremy Hockley or anyone from Debt Doctor and neither did either of my fellow consultants either.
"It seemed that we, along with clients, had been abandoned."
The last filed accounts showed the company had a deficiency of assets totalling almost £490,000.
Hermes Financial Solutions was wound up in July of this year and a liquidator appointed.
The liquidator, Jon Law, told the BBC: "This investigation has now substantially completed and it is clear that around £600,000 of client money belonging to more than 80 clients of the company has been used improperly and is no longer held by the company."
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