Derbyshire man left note sarcastically 'thanking' Universal Credit bosses before taking his own life

A suicide note sarcastically "thanking" Universal Credit bosses was found at the home of a Derbyshire man who took his own life after running out of money for his electricity meter, an inquest heard.

Friday, 12th April 2019, 12:43 pm
Updated Friday, 12th April 2019, 12:49 pm
The inquest was held at Derby and Derbyshire Coroner's Court
The inquest was held at Derby and Derbyshire Coroner's Court

Brian Sycamore, of Long Eaton, wrote the note on his phone before taking an overdose of pills.

He had been having trouble getting Universal Credit, his brother told the inquest. And though Mr Sycamore, 62, had suffered with back problems for many years, it was the problems he was having in getting the benefit that was the 'trigger' for his suicide, his brother added.

Held at Derby and Derbyshire Coroner's Court, the inquest heard that Mr Sycamore's housemate Paul Baker found him dead in bed with a large amount of medication on his bedside table on September 30, 2017.

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The inquest was held at Derby and Derbyshire Coroner's Court

The medication had legally been prescribed to him for his back conditions, and a GP said Mr Sycamore, of Bennett Street, had no record of mental health problems or previous suicide attempts. A psychiatric doctor said he had never been admitted to Kingsway Hospital.

Assistant coroner Louise Pinder said Mr Sycamore’s brother, Henry Sycamore, believed he took his own life because of problems with his benefits.

She said: “Henry has said to us that he believes this was a deliberate act.

“He had been in pain for many years. But he believes the trigger was down to problems he was having with his Universal Credit.”

PC Mark Karim, of Derbyshire police, read a note that was left on Mr Sycamore’s unlocked phone.

He said: “There was a note that said ‘can you thank the people who work at the Department for Work and Pensions?’

“There was also a reference to the electricity meter running out.”

The coroner and PC Karim both agreed that the “thanks” in the note were intended to be sarcastic.

Mr Sycamore's housemate Mr Baker had last seen him alive two days before his death, the hearing was told. Mr Baker had been ill in bed the day before Mr Sycamore's death, but decided to check on his housemate when he stopped hearing noise coming from his room.

A post-mortem and toxicology tests found that Mr Sycamore had lethal levels of four different medicines in his system.

The coroner recorded Mr Sycamore’s death as “suicide” and said the cause of death was “mixed drug toxicity”.

However, while she did state that there was a note left on his phone, she did not refer to problems with Universal Credit as a cause or contributing factor when recording her conclusion.

A spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions, which handles benefits claims, said his sympathies were with Mr Sycamore's family.

He said: "Suicide is a very complex issue, so it would be wrong to link it solely to someone’s benefit claim.

“We are committed to safeguarding vulnerable claimants and we keep our guidance under constant review to ensure we provide the highest standard of protection.”

* A version of this story first appeared on the Derby Telegraph website.