Power cut last straw in man's suicide: coroner

GISBORNE - The Gisborne coroner will ask Contact Energy to review its procedures for cutting off the power of those who have not paid their bill after a debtor committed suicide.

Coroner Allan Hall, finding a Gisborne man's death was self-inflicted, said having the power cut off "may have been the straw that broke the camel's back."

The man, whose name was suppressed, was receiving an over-55 benefit of about $147 a week and had debt problems. His refrigerator had been repossessed the previous month with only $200 owing, and his car insurance and warrant of fitness had run out.

Just over three weeks before his death, he received a letter from Contact Energy saying that if he did not pay the $206.25 owing, his power would be cut off.

The day after the power was disconnected, the man's body was found in his home.

"I am satisfied that a number of problems, particularly debts, would have got too much for him, and the fact the power was cut off may have been the straw that broke the camel's back," Mr Hall said.

Contact should review its procedures for cutting off the power of those who had not paid their account.

He acknowledged that notice was given by letter, but said it would also be appropriate to contact the debtor perhaps no more than seven days before the "intended event" with a reminder that the power was to be cut.

He said he would pass this recommendation on to Contact Energy.

Contact Energy spokesman Bruce Thompson said the company was concerned about the death of the man and the possible link to the power cut.

He said Contact had cut the power only after the man's bill remained unpaid for four months.

- NZPA

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