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The Cumberland News
7 February 2008 11:07 AM
Relatives of Ralph Pattison, 57, who hanged himself in his garage on January 11, 2006, say he believed he would go to prison after receiving a leaflet threatening criminal prosecution for benefit fraud.
The loving grandad, whose only previous run-in with the law was a parking ticket, left a suicide note and thought he had been “hung, drawn and quartered” because of the nature of the letters.
Job Centre Plus has now written to apologise to his distraught daughter Samantha Mattinson, 21, for failing to follow “standard procedure” – after an investigation by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.
But the mum-of-two, of Botcherby, Carlisle, today called for more to be done and told the News & Star: “My dad is dead because of their mistake.”
Mr Pattison’s family said Job Centre officials sent him a leaflet warning him he may end up in jail and lose his house, while he was suffering a nervous breakdown. He killed himself at his home in Metal Bridge the next day.
Fraud investigators have admitted that the leaflet which also warned he would be subject to an interview under caution, should have been sent to Mr Pattison in an initial mailing and not left until later. Job Centre bosses expressed their “regret” and added: “Mistakes do occur and it was unfortunate that this was one such instance.”
Mrs Mattinson has been fighting to clear her father’s name for nearly two years.
She said: “If he had got that leaflet at that start we would have been able to tackle it with him.
“I cannot accept human error as an excuse.”
Mr Pattison was a carer for his disabled fiancée Rose. The couple were due to be married the year he died.
His family believe that the investigations centred around £10,000, left to Mr Pattison when his father died, which he then gave to his children.
Mrs Mattinson said: “My dad was the happiest, nicest man. I had just given birth to Matthew, his grandson, and he was over the moon.
“Then these letters came and he was terrified.
“Within a matter of six weeks he could not eat or sleep.”
“Someone from the DSS assured my dad that they were going to send him a note reassuring him that if he hadn’t done anything wrong he would not go to prison.
“He was the kind of person who just needed that extra bit of reassurance but he knew he hadn’t broken the law. On the Monday before this leaflet arrived, dad went to the doctor who prescribed him antidepressants.
“Then on the Tuesday he received a letter, with no note of reassurance, and this leaflet telling him he could lose his home and end up in prison. He was worried sick and killed himself on the Wednesday.”
She said that more must be done to ensure this does not happen again and wants someone to take responsibility for her father’s suicide.
Mrs Mattinson added: “I have been left without my dad and my sons without a grandad.
“My hurt has turned to anger and I want someone to realise the knock-on effect this has had on my family.”
A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “We would like to extend our deepest sympathy to the family of Mr Pattison.
“We co-operated fully with the ombudsman and accept the findings of his report.”