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.

Coroner: Man ordered by Job Centre to give up training course

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.

"80,000 Londoners at risk of eviction"

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.

Widow: Council cut our housing benefit by £30 a week

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 [2011] 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."


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Comments (6)

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3:38pm Thu 25 Aug 11

N Draper says...

I'm very sorry to see what happened to Mr. Sanderson, & my heart goes out to his wife. I am a bit concerned, however, that it only becomes clear in the second-to-last paragraph that it was Wandsworth Council, where the Sandersons lived, who issued the letter. The article appears in a Merton newspaper, namechecks Merton Council twice in earlier, more prominent paragraphs, and quotes an untrue statement about mental health provision not being available in the borough. I don't think this is fair either on the Sandersons or on Merton Council: I'm sure it's unintentional, and I'd ask you to be more careful in future.
I'm very sorry to see what happened to Mr. Sanderson, & my heart goes out to his wife. I am a bit concerned, however, that it only becomes clear in the second-to-last paragraph that it was Wandsworth Council, where the Sandersons lived, who issued the letter. The article appears in a Merton newspaper, namechecks Merton Council twice in earlier, more prominent paragraphs, and quotes an untrue statement about mental health provision not being available in the borough. I don't think this is fair either on the Sandersons or on Merton Council: I'm sure it's unintentional, and I'd ask you to be more careful in future. N Draper

3:50pm Thu 25 Aug 11

unionworkeruk says...

How many of you tory voters feel just a little bit guilty for all your demonising of the unemployed and those on housing benefit as scroungers and layabouts?
How many of you tory voters feel just a little bit guilty for all your demonising of the unemployed and those on housing benefit as scroungers and layabouts? unionworkeruk

2:06am Fri 26 Aug 11

DaftAida says...

Being considered 'unemployed' is akin to being accused of being worthless; a hugely demoralising experience. Mr Sanderson did not agree to fiscal policies which lead to the collapse of SME activities and employment. I can hear the jackals chuckle at this lamentable tragedy. The trouble most people have is that they are a) convinced this would never happen to them whilst b) terrified that it may. This works very nicely for Guv's Corporate partners; a workforce driven by fear to accept long hours, falling pay, bullying and exploitation. Such a workforce is too exhausted to consider the essential remedial actions which need to be taken in order to end this cycle of increasing misery as 'it's not their problem'. Resenting the high taxes they pay and low disposable income they receive, they are too quick to condemn others struggling in circles at the bottom of the heap.
Being considered 'unemployed' is akin to being accused of being worthless; a hugely demoralising experience. Mr Sanderson did not agree to fiscal policies which lead to the collapse of SME activities and employment. I can hear the jackals chuckle at this lamentable tragedy. The trouble most people have is that they are a) convinced this would never happen to them whilst b) terrified that it may. This works very nicely for Guv's Corporate partners; a workforce driven by fear to accept long hours, falling pay, bullying and exploitation. Such a workforce is too exhausted to consider the essential remedial actions which need to be taken in order to end this cycle of increasing misery as 'it's not their problem'. Resenting the high taxes they pay and low disposable income they receive, they are too quick to condemn others struggling in circles at the bottom of the heap. DaftAida

10:51am Fri 26 Aug 11

davidss says...

Don't you think someone should check with the DWP if it is in fact their policy to cut benefits to people who may not be avaliable for job interviews simply because they are on a course to re-skill themselves so they can get a job that will actually get them off benefits ! Surley that can't be correct ? and if it is it's the economics of the madhouse !!
Don't you think someone should check with the DWP if it is in fact their policy to cut benefits to people who may not be avaliable for job interviews simply because they are on a course to re-skill themselves so they can get a job that will actually get them off benefits ! Surley that can't be correct ? and if it is it's the economics of the madhouse !! davidss

12:31pm Fri 26 Aug 11

EntrepreneurGB says...

@Unionworker.
Obviously we all feel desperately sorrow for people who find themselves in difficult or impossible situations but...
If you wish to apportion blame, place the blame where it really belongs; with the last Labour Government and the Labour Party.
If it were not for their spendthrift, profligate, extravagant and recklessly wasteful ways when they were in Government there would be no need for all these cuts and austerity measures.
Look at Labour now. They are having to take a cut of their councillors pay to bail themselves out.
Couldn't run the country, can't run themselves, couldn't run a p*** up in a brewery.
@Unionworker. Obviously we all feel desperately sorrow for people who find themselves in difficult or impossible situations but... If you wish to apportion blame, place the blame where it really belongs; with the last Labour Government and the Labour Party. If it were not for their spendthrift, profligate, extravagant and recklessly wasteful ways when they were in Government there would be no need for all these cuts and austerity measures. Look at Labour now. They are having to take a cut of their councillors pay to bail themselves out. Couldn't run the country, can't run themselves, couldn't run a p*** up in a brewery. EntrepreneurGB

6:14pm Fri 26 Aug 11

Action T4 says...

I wonder where Cameron is on holiday this week?
I wonder where Cameron is on holiday this week? Action T4

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