- Jimmy Ballentine was investigated after wrongly receiving handouts for 10 years
- Father of two had £7,000 in savings – slightly above £6,000 means-tested limit
- Became so fearful of prosecution that he took overdose on grandsons’ birthday
- Believed Mr Ballentine, of Consett, would have had to repay just a few thousand
A former coal miner ‘was hounded to suicide’ after fearing he would be dragged to court for accidentally over-claiming on benefits.
Jimmy Ballentine, 60, was investigated by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) after wrongly receiving handouts for 10 years.
The father of two, from Consett, County Durham, had £7,000 in savings after selling his home, meaning he was slightly above the £6,000 means-tested limit.
He became so fearful of being prosecuted by the DWP that he took a fatal overdose on the fourth birthday of his twin grandsons, on February 12.
Jimmy Ballentine (right, pictured with his son Dale) was investigated by the Department for Work and Pensions after wrongly receiving handouts for 10 years
However the DWP told MailOnline it had no intention of ever prosecuting Mr Ballentine, believing his error in a benefits form was a ‘genuine mistake’.
In a note left to his son Dale, Mr Ballentine apologised for his actions and said he did not want an expensive funeral.
He wrote: ‘Sorry son, you will have to bury me. I want no church service, no food or party. Will cost £3,000 at the Co-op, Consett.
‘Forgive me leaving you with my debt. Cannot take anymore. Love both of you. Ask the family to help with house clearance.’
Mr Ballentine struggled with depression, anxiety and mild schizophrenia after losing his job as a coal miner following the closure of pits across the country.
In November, he was told he had been illegally claiming benefits for a decade by a fraud officer, and was interviewed on at least four other occasions.
His son Dale explained how his father thought he would have to pay back tens of thousands of pounds, when in reality he would be expected to repay a few thousand.