BY TOBY PORTER – SOUTH LONDON PRESS (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The suicide note of a man on benefits who took his own life blamed a DWP official for allegedly putting the idea in his head. Martin John Counter, then 60, of Cotton Hill, Bromley, was being investigated over whether it was legal for him to claim sickness allowance while having a tax-saving account – an ISA.
He died on September 5, 2018 in his bed – his family believe after taking pills – and left a suicide note which named the official who mentioned suicide in a meeting with him.
He had been unable to work because of ME, psoriasis, and then in 2015 a perforated colon, because of which he had to be put in a coma for four weeks. He also had arthritis, for which doctors regularly prescribe methotrexate.
His suicide note said: “Thank you, [named individual] for putting suicide in my head. “I know I did not answer that question in my ISA but that was probably due to my post virol syndrome and that Dr G methatremte causing fatigue, exhaustion, lack of concentration.
“There was a breakdown at the face-to-face meeting when I did inform you of the ISA but I thought might be tied to the house. “I lose concentration when on the phone and work somewhat better face-to-face.
“I never have had a suicidal thought till you for some reason brought it up. Was it a twist of the knife? “If the ISA had been mentioned I would have stopped the claim, sold the house and moved to probably Eastbourne and invested the £1,500.00 and be on more money the ESA. I would have had to sort the house out in ill health to do it.
“So sorry to family and friends.”
Mr Counter had attended a meeting, under caution, on June 19, 2018 after Bromley’s Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) office found out he had an ISA.
He made a payment to the DWP of £24,000 in August – virtually all the funds in his ISA.
Mr Counter’s brother Alan has asked to know if he made contact with the DWP in August/early September, and the content of any emails or discussions, which he believes holds the key to his suicide.
Alan told the inquest on May 13 he believed the criminal investigation into Martin is what drove him to kill himself. He has asked on September 12, through the estate’s executor Angie Albrow, for a copy of the June 19 recorded interview.
The DWP has since denied receiving the request or Ms Albrow’s September 20 letter providing proof of her being the executor.
The coroner at Mr Counter’s inquest, Xavier Mooyaart, has now taken the highly unusual step of intervening on Alan’s behalf.
He has written to the Bromley job centre in Elmfield Road, saying: “While the reasons for Mr Counter’s decision to take his own life are outside my jurisdiction, I am concerned that his family’s requests for information have not only been addressed but apparently ignored. “I would be most grateful if you could provide them with all assistance and explanation possible.”
Alan said: “The Metropolitan Police had previously stated to me that without firm evidence they were unable to investigate further.
“The coroner said from the outset the purpose of the inquest was to determine the who, when and how but the why but not the cause of why Martin took his life.
“So I am very grateful for his intervention. I did not expect it. The police have also offered to raise the matter. I was very impressed with the reaction of everyone who heard what had happened.
But the DWP has been sitting on the matter for nine months now. If they have done this to me, how many others have they done it to.”
Martin’s MP, Janet Daby, has also written to the DWP following up Alan’s request for departmental date; and had a reply, dated April 10, 2019, from correspondence manager Mary Marshall.
We contacted the DWP on May 8 and were told on May 10 that a Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: “Our deepest sympathies are with Mr Counter’s family. We cannot comment further ahead of the inquest.”
The day after the May 13 inquest we again contacted the DWP. There had been no reply by Tuesday so we called to pursue the query giving a deadline of 12.30 pm yesterday.
The response then was as follows: A DWP spokeswoman said: “Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Mr Counter at this difficult time.”
Concerning the documents Alan Counter had requested by recorded delivery but not been given, she later added: “As we haven’t got explicit consent, we can’t give you any more details re Mr Counter’s case.”