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Christchurch man committed suicide after 'trigger point' following benefits cut

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CUTTING the benefits of a Christchurch man with mental health problems contributed to a "trigger point" which led to his suicide, a coroner said.

Brian Powers (61), of Wick Lane, was found by a neighbour on the steps to his flat on the evening of 18th January, an inquest in Bournemouth was told.

He died as a result of blood loss from three lacerations to his arm and thighs which a post-mortem examination found were self-inflicted.

The inquest was held at Bournemouth Coroners' Court
The inquest was held at Bournemouth Coroners' Court

Bournemouth Coroner's Court heard how Brian, who lived alone and used drugs, was estranged from his family and led an "isolated lifestyle".

Assistant coroner Richard Middleton said the cut in his benefits from around £700 to £400 created "immediate financial difficulty".

He said: "This financial difficulty appears to be a trigger point for a confrontational situation between Mr Powers and those who were housing him and then, sadly, Dorset Police became involved."

The court heard how Mr Powers had been arrested on Christmas Eve last year after making threats to his housing association. He was also found to be cultivating cannabis for personal use.

For these offences, he was given a conditional caution.

His stepfather Ralph Cockrell told the inquest that he had last seen Brian around two-and-a-half years prior to his death. He described him as "pleasant and friendly" but said he knew little of his lifestyle.

On learning of Brian's death, he had gone to his flat and found a letter, torn in half, informing him that his benefits were being cut.

Mr Cockerill said: "At the time of his death he had £2.84 in the bank and just two tins of soup in the cupboard.

"I am certain now his suicide was because of his financial problems – that he could see no way out."

Brian had previously worked at Pontins holiday parks for around nine years in various roles including as a chef and gardener.

A statement from his GP, Dr Kevin Wrigley, said he saw Brian on 17th December last year and he was concerned he could be suffering from drug-induced psychosis.

Brian had told his GP he was "constantly in fear, heard voices and thought he was going to be stabbed".

He appeared "on edge and anxious" and outlined his stress about his housing situation.

The court heard Brian had put in a request with his housing association to be transferred to Yorkshire, where his family lived, but he was placed in the lowest priority category.

An urgent referral was made by the GP to the community health team, but the inquest heard he did not meet the criteria for treatment so was referred back to his doctor for support.

The inquest also heard that Mr Powers wrongly believed he was due to attend court in January, following his earlier arrest.

Recording a conclusion that Mr Powers took his own life, Mr Middleton said: "There was a change in his finances where some of his benefits were cut which led to him suffering immediate financial difficulty."

The Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or at www.samaritans.org

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