The McStay family – whose bodies were found in a shallow grave in the Californian desert almost four years after they mysteriously vanished – could barely afford to pay $210 a week on rent just months before they disappeared with $100,000 in the bank, it was claimed today.

Joseph and Summer McStay were also apparently being chased by debt collection agents, the IRS and lawyers representing business clients they owed money to.

Despite their apparent financial difficulties, they managed to find the cash to buy a $320,000 house around two months before they vanished on February 4 2010. They also had $100,000 in the bank when they vanished which remained untouched.

The reason for their sudden, unexplained disappearance has gripped America for almost four years, leaving law enforcement and amateur sleuths alike completely baffled.

Even the discovery of the bodies of parents Joseph and Summer and their two children Gianni and Joey Jr near a highway in Victorville, California last week has not stopped the wild speculation.

Some have suggested the family of four were killed by a Mexican cartel because of a business deal that went bad. For years it was believed they had fled to the Central American country after CCTV footage was discovered apparently showing them crossing the border on foot, four days after they went missing.

Now MailOnline has been given new information suggesting Joseph and Summer were barely able to keep up with payments for a modest rent on a small two bedroom apartment in San Clemente, California.

They lived in the property for around five years until just three or four months before their disappearance. Their landlord was apparently desperate to throw them out because they were constantly behind with the payments.

But despite that, when they left the apartment, they bought a $320,000 house in nearby Fallbrook and had $100,000 in the bank. Joseph’s fountain making company Earth Inspired Products was their main source of income.

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The man who took over the rent at their old place is former US marine Dave White. He lived on the same street before moving into their old place and knew the family.

Mr White, 54, who now drives school buses said: ‘I knew the landlord on the place before I moved in as I used to be handyman and I did some odd jobs around the place for him. I lived around ten houses up the street, so I knew the McStay’s to say hello to.

‘From what I understand, before they moved out they were on the verge of being evicted, because they were behind on their rent. That was three years ago. 

‘The rent they were paying was only about $850 a month and the landlord, a guy called Bill, who has passed away now, was one of the nicest men you could meet. 

‘He was extremely easy to deal with and I had no problems at all with him, but he was in the process of evicting them. It was such a small amount and he was so easy going, I don’t understand how anyone could fall out with him.

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