Southfields dad committed suicide after housing benefit cut
A desperate man who lined up three kitchen knives before stabbing himself twice in the heart, blamed cuts in housing benefit.
Unemployed Richard Sanderson took his own life after writing three suicide notes which were laid out neatly on a bed in a meticulously planned act.
In one to his wife he wrote: “Don’t come into the bathroom, this time I will most certainly be deceased”.
Mr Sanderson, who said he could not face the thought of his family being homeless, stabbed himself twice in the heart with a kitchen knife on May 29 at home in Augustus Road, Southfields, after years of being unable to find work finally took its toll, an inquest heard.
The 44-year-old former helicopter pilot wrote three suicide notes – two for his wife, Petra, and one for the police – after carefully planning the suicide over several days.
This followed a failed attempt less than a year earlier.
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After returning a verdict of suicide at Westminster Coroner’s Court on Tuesday, August 23, Dr Fiona Wilcox said: “What I find particularly tragic in this case is this act appears to be pursued by a man who was not suffering from an illness and appears to have made a considered act in response to his inability to find employment.
“The fact his housing benefit was about to be cut and the family would be at risk of having nowhere to live, and being ordered to give up his training course because of the Job Centre's rules, would appear to be especially poignant and tragic.”
In February, Merton Council estimated up to 3,000 residents would be made poorer by the coalition Government’s policy of cutting housing benefits, which will decrease by between £5 and £400 a week from November, depending on the size of the property.
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Annys Darkwa, who runs St Helier-based Vision Housing and helps find homes in Merton for ex-offenders, said tragic cases like this would become more frequent in the coming months because housing benefit cuts would hit the most vulnerable the hardest.
Mrs Darkwa said: “We are going to see this happen more and more as we expect 80,000 people across London to be evicted due to housing benefit cuts.
“It is especially concerning in Merton where mental health provision has disappeared. What’s going to happen to people who think they’re all alone and commit suicide because they think there’s no one to help them?”
Mr Sanderson, who was also a window cleaner, met his wife while travelling in South Africa in 1995 before the pair eventually settled in Wimbledon in 2007 to find better work prospects in London.
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Mrs Sanderson got a job but was made redundant in 2009, while Mr Sanderson constantly struggled to find work and was unable to complete training as an electrician because the job centre would not continue to pay his benefit because his training stopped him from being available for job interviews.
He tried to commit suicide the first time in June 2010 by crushing up 150 tranquiliser pills which he swallowed with a glass of whisky.
He was found at home unconscious but still alive by his wife.
Mrs Sanderson, who did not attend the inquest because she thought it would be too upsetting, gave a statement to police in which she explained the first suicide bid was done so she and their nine-year-old son could benefit from a life insurance policy payout worth 2.5m South African Rand (about £210,000), which she soon cancelled after the suicide attempt.
A psychological report by Dr Joanne Turner, who examined Mr Sanderson at St George’s Hospital, said he did not exhibit any signs of mental illness or depression and claimed to be “embarrassed” by his suicide bid.
But in her statement, Mrs Sanderson revealed: “In March or April  we received a letter from [Wandsworth] Council which said our housing benefit would decrease by £30 a week, forcing us to move but leaving us with nowhere to go.”
"Despite this, I hadn't noticed any major change in Richard’s mood. I don't know why he killed himself. We had planned to go to Wimbledon Common the next day."