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Inquest hears man who set himself on fire in Lowestoft struggled to cope with change in benefits

PUBLISHED: 09:44 28 April 2017 | UPDATED: 13:06 28 April 2017

Emergency services at the scene in London Road North, Lowestoft. Picture: Archant.

Emergency services at the scene in London Road North, Lowestoft. Picture: Archant.

©archant2015

The niece of a 67-year-old man who died from severe burns after setting himself on fire in Lowestoft has described him as a "loving person" who struggled to cope with a change in his benefits.

Retired builder Peter Sherwood died in Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford, on September 8, 2015, following an incident in the town centre four days before.

An inquest in Ipswich yesterday heard Mr Sherwood, of High Street, Lowestoft, had a long history of recurrent depressive disorder and psychosis and had attempted suicide several times in the past.

In a statement read during the hearing, Mr Sherwood’s niece Sarah Wilby said: “He was a loving person and had a great sense of humour.

“I loved him very much and miss him dreadfully.”

Ms Wilby said she was “shocked” at the “drastic” way her uncle took his own life.

She added: “He seemed to want to make some kind of a statement, but I don’t know what.”

During the inquest Ms Wilby said Mr Sherwood was on Disability Living Allowance but he had received a letter informing him he needed to reapply for Personal Independence Payment, which she believed contributed to his heightened anger at that time.

Emergency services were called to London Road North at around 5.10pm on Friday, September 4, 2015.

Coroner Peter Dean read statements from witnesses, who described seeing Mr Sherwood spraying something on the pavement starting with the letter ‘h’ with an aerosol can.

Mr Sherwood then set himself on fire. Members of the public tried to douse the flames by throwing their jackets onto Mr Sherwood, and using a fire extinguisher from a nearby shop.

Police at the scene reported Mr Sherwood had muttered the word “humanity” to them a couple of times after the incident.

On September 4, 2015, Mr Sherwood was visited at home by the community mental health team and he expressed plans to end his own life. An urgent appointment was made for Mr Sherwood to see a psychiatrist the following week.

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust has since updated its criteria of when patients should be referred to the 24-hour crisis team.

Dr Dean recorded a verdict of suicide.

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