Was grandmother driven to suicide by the 'bedroom tax'? Unemployed woman, 53, hit by £20-a-week charge dies after leaving note saying the Government was to blame— (Mail Online)

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Mail Online


PUBLISHED:  12 May 2013

  • Stephanie Bottrill could not afford to stay in her home of 18 years
  • Council could not find suitable alternative for her, leaving her ‘trapped’
  • She was found dead by motorway after writing note blaming Government

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

Stephanie Bottrill, 53, 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 a month in housing benefit. The bungalow she was offered as an alternative was six miles away from her friends and family.

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

On Saturday May 4 Miss 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.’

Miss 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 Mr Balls acknowledged that he did not know the details of Miss Bottrill’s case.

Home: Meriden Drive in Solihull, where Stephanie Bottrill lived in for 18 years

Letter to her son: Ms Bottrill’s suicide note blamed the government for her actions

And 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.’

Miss Bottrill had lived in her three-bedroom council house in Solihull 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 Miss 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 added: ‘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 Miss Bottrill looked over the garden fence to greet guests at a barbecue.

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

Mr 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.

Ms Bottrill was found dead near Junction 4 of the M6 motorway

‘Her neighbour told me that she often sat in the dark because she didn’t have the money to put in  her meter.

‘She was apparently quite all right until all this. They couldn’t find her somewhere in the vicinity.

‘The place she was offered made her feel like she was being cut off. It would have taken her at least an hour to get a bus to see her friends. This bedroom tax is too inflexible.’