Father killed himself after being asked for £11,000 child support
A father hanged himself after receiving letters from the Child Support Agency demanding £11,000 in backdated maintenance payments for his son, an inquest has heard.
Ian Sandywell, 45, was told he would have to give £520 a month in back payments for his 22-year-old son, Ben.
Hours before killing himself, the car salesman from Stoke-on-Trent texted Ben saying: “Delete me out of your life, I’m going to hang myself.”
Sandywell’s body was discovered by his wife, Jo-Ann Balsamo, when she returned from work on the evening of 7 November last year.
Balsamo told Stafford coroner’s court that her husband had been embroiled in a dispute with his ex-wife for two years following their divorce in 2001.
She said Sandywell had been receiving a number of letters from the CSA claiming he was in arrears for outstanding payments to Ben. But on 7 November, a new letter demanded £11,000, which was more than Sandywell had previously been told to pay.
Balsamo described how her husband had phoned her at lunchtime sobbing over fears he would not be able to support her and pay their mortgage. Though they agreed to discuss the matter that evening, she found him dead in their garage when she got home. “It was the most horrific and traumatic day of my life. Ian had never ever seemed suicidal before,” she said.
The inquest heard that even after her husband’s death, Balsamo continued to receive letters from the CSA ordering that payments be made from Sandywell’s estate. “The CSA just treats all absent parents like they don’t want to see their kids. This February they emailed saying, ‘Sorry for your loss, please accept this letter as a claim on Ian’s estate for the outstanding amount of £9,000’. So once again the amount has changed,” she said.
She added that it was hard for absent parents and that the CSA does not take people’s lives into account. “I think there’s a better way of treating individual circumstances as far as the CSA are concerned. I feel if they had handled it more sensitively and were more professional then Ian would still be here.”
Ben, a law graduate from Harriseahead, Staffordshire, said he took his father’s text as a joke and told him to get back to him when he wanted to speak properly. “I wouldn’t describe myself as close to my dad. We weren’t in touch that much, just birthdays, Christmas and the odd meal here and there.
“I was young when they split up but the maintenance payments had become hit-and-miss. The amount they wanted was based on his income, I think, so that’s why the amount would change I think, but my mum dealt with it more than me,” he said.
Recording a verdict of suicide, coroner Ian Smith said: “Ian had been concerned about a very substantial Child Support Agency debt. He had engaged in a number of texts with his son. He said some rather silly things, including that he would hang himself. I don’t think anyone would have believed him for a minute.”
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