CSA NEWS January/February 1996

A father of four killed himself while under pressure from the controversial Child Support Agency, an inquest heard. David Harmsworth, aged 45, of Coldean, Brighton, was found dead on November 20. He was discovered in his van parked at the Braypool sports ground in Patcham, by a man taking his dog for a walk. A hose was taped from the exhaust. A post mortem revealed that he died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Mr Harmsworth, a plumber and former driving instructor, had been suffering from depression. The inquest heard that he left letters that made it clear he intended to take his own life. His sister, Katerina Steele, from Lancing, told the Brighton hearing he had financial problems and owed money to the CSA for two children he no longer saw. She said: “He had the CSA after him for money. Last December he said he owed £2,000. He was not allowed to see his two youngest children, which upset him dreadfully.”

His former fiancee, Tracy Simmons, from Portslade, said he had been suffering depression for some time. She said “The Child Support Agency were asking for an unfair amount of money which he did not have. The assessment was unfair because it did not leave him enough money to live on.”

East Sussex coroner, Dr Donald Gooding, who recorded a verdict of suicide, told the hearing he had contacted the CSA but the Agency had declined to comment on the case as the information was covered by the Data Protection Act. He said: “This is a sad story. He clearly had a number of problems, both financial and domestic. I have no evidence the CSA assessment was unreasonable. He could not afford to pay, but that does not mean it was unreasonable.”

A spokesperson from the Brighton and Worthing branch of NACSA said: “This latest tragedy brings the total to 36 wasted lives in the last two years. It cannot keep going on like this. People are under intolerable stress… the pressure really does drag you down. These deaths are not just isolated incidents. The CSA has been the main factor in most of these deaths.”

Source: Sussex Evening Argus 21/22 December 1995