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British grandmother kills self over bedroom tax

52-year-old blames government for driving her to suicide

Gulf News

London: A grandmother who killed herself left a note apparently blaming the so-called ‘bedroom tax’ for driving her to suicide.

Stephanie Bottrill, 52, lived alone in a three-bedroom house after both her son and her daughter moved out.

Under the new rules she was told she had to move to a smaller property or lose £80 (Dh452) a month in housing benefit. The bungalow she was offered as an alternative was six miles away from her friends and family.

According to her local Labour councillor, Bottrill, who was unemployed, could barely afford to feed herself, let alone fund the shortfall in rent.

On Saturday, May 4, Bottrill wrote a series of suicide notes before stepping out in front of a lorry. She died instantly.

In one of the notes, addressed to her son Steven, 27, she wrote: “Don’t blame yourself for me ending my life. The only people to blame are the government, no-one else.”

Bottrill’s death has renewed the debate over the ‘bedroom tax’, described by the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith as the ‘spare rooms subsidy’.

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls seized on the case, saying: “There is no doubt that this policy is driving people to the edge of despair”.

However, Balls acknowledged that he did not know the details of Bottrill’s case.

Conservative minister Baroness Warsi said: “I think those are very tragic circumstances and certainly I think to try to link them in any way to a general discussion from politicians would be wrong.”

Bottrill had lived in her three-bedroom council house in Solihull in the West Midlands of England for 18 years.

She raised her children Steven and Laura, now 23, there alone after their father left. Steven, a lorry driver with a five-year-old son, said his mother had an auto-immune deficiency and doctors told her she was too ill to work.

Her £320-a-month rent was paid in full by housing benefit, but her son moved out several years ago and her daughter left in March.

As a result she had two empty bedrooms and was due to have her housing benefit cut by £80 a month.

Last night Bottrill’s son told the Daily Mail that his mother had been on anti-depressants when she died but had never attempted suicide before.

He said: “She was fine before this bedroom tax. It was dreamt up in London, by people in offices and big houses. They have no idea the effect it has on people like my mum.”

Neighbours said that on the night before her death Bottrill looked over the garden fence to greet guests at a barbecue.

She told them she had been too ill to eat properly for three days and then gratefully accepted a plate of food.

David Jamieson, leader of the Labour group on Solihull council, said: “As well as not being able to afford food I think it’s possible Stephanie didn’t have the electricity on.”