Peter Williams Killed Himself After Battling Missed Council Tax Payments

Council Tax summons and demands for an address under the control of Barnet Council.
Council Tax summons and demands for an address under the control of Barnet Council.

An engineer left notes for friends and family telling them he was going to take his own life after years of battling with his local council over non-payment of council tax, an inquest has heard.

Peter Williams, 63, was found dead at Biggleswade train station in February last year after he was hit by a train.

Police found two letters at his home in Jubilee Lane, Langford, in which he said he intended to die after officers were called to the property "following concerns from friends that he was about to harm himself because he was about to be evicted", an inquest has heard.

Peter Williams owed more than £8,500

At the inquest into his death at Bedford Coroner's Court, deputy coroner Martin Oldham was read a statement from a former employee of Central Bedfordshire Council that said Mr Williams owed more than £8,500 in council tax arrears at the time of his death.

The statement, from James Tomlin, who was a member of the council's revenue and benefits team, said he had had dealings with Mr Williams over non-payment of his council tax since the mid-1990s.

Mr Tomlin said Mr Williams, who had worked with SAVortex, was made bankrupt after around 10 years of being in arrears.

The council was told by a GP in around 2010 that Mr Williams had been suffering from depression and he had been advised to contact social services, but no further mention was made of it until after his death.

Mr Williams did inform the council that he had diabetes and subsequent ill health but failed to fill in any forms to see if he were eligible to claim council tax benefit, or single person's allowance, or disability or unemployment benefits, the inquest heard.

He also did not attend many court hearings that were to deal with his council tax debt, nor did he respond often to communication relating to bankruptcy petitions or his eviction.

Mike O'Brien QC, acting on behalf of Mr Williams's family, said he would raise various issues with Mr Tomlin's statement once it had been read to the court, which he described as "contentious".

One of the problems, he said, was that much of Mr Tomlin's statement dealt with opinion and not fact, and because Mr Tomlin has since died he is not able to be cross-examined at the inquest.

Mr Tomlin said in his statement that he had met Mr Williams at his home to deliver paperwork and discuss his situation and had no concerns about his mental health.

The inquest heard how a report from bailiffs who attended Mr Williams's home described him as a "strange individual" and said they had "grave reservations about his mental stability".

A similar later report said Mr Williams appeared on one occasion to have been "very confused" and did not seem to think he should pay council tax, or even understand properly what it was, the inquest heard.

Over the years Mr Williams did make sporadic payments towards his debt but it was never enough to significantly reduce the amount he owed, the court heard.

In addition, he also owed around £1,500 in legal costs as bankruptcy and eviction processes had started.

He had also been in touch on various occasions with his local councillors to discuss his situation, the inquest was told.

If you are affected by any of the issues raised call The Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90

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