Beds, Herts & Bucks

Bedfordshire inquest hears eviction threat led to death

A man jumped in front of a train on the day he was due to be evicted from his Bedfordshire home, an inquest has heard.

Peter Williams, 63, had been pursued for tax arrears by Central Bedfordshire Council since the mid-1990s.

Dunstable Coroner's Court previously heard claims the council "hounded this man to his death" but the council said it "spent years" trying to help him.

The engineer was killed by a train at Biggleswade on 8 February last year.

He caught a bus from his Langford home to the railway station and jumped in front of a Hull to King's Cross train at around 09:00 GMT.

The cause of death was multiple injuries, the inquest was told.

Mr Williams initially owed £1,350 but by the time he killed himself the sum had risen to £70,000, including legal fees.

'Brilliant man'

Police attended Mr Williams four-bedroom £200,000 home at Jubilee Lane, Langford, after receiving a call from a concerned friend on 8 February, coroner's officer Peter Wright told the inquest.

There they found two suicide notes.

Mike O'Brien QC, representing Mr Williams' family, previously told the hearing: "The local authority say Mr Williams was not vulnerable. We say he was.

"It was the council who hounded this man until his death. He was a brilliant man, an inventor."

Coroner Martin Oldham, who is sitting without a jury, read a 57-page statement by James Tomlin, a revenues manager with Central Bedfordshire Council.

Mr Tomlin has died since making the statement and cannot be questioned by Mr O'Brien.

In it the officer said the council "spent years trying to help Mr Williams" and also offered him help with claiming benefits and the single person's rebate, but he had not completed the forms.

He added although he was a recluse he had no concerns for Mr Williams' mental stability.

The council was awarded a bankruptcy order in 2006 and since then it had little to do with the engineer, the inquest heard.

The inquest is expected to last for five days.

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