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Islington historian was found dead in flat after benefits struggle

Inquest is told how 59-year-old ‘found it humiliating to put claim down in writing’

04 October, 2019

Martin King wrote a book about his former home in Cross Street, Barnsbury

A “UNIQUE and creative” historian and museum volunteer had struggled with the benefits system before he was found dead in his flat by his close friend, a coroner’s court heard.

Martin King, 59, was a popular helper at the Islington Museum in Finsbury where he helped curate the LGBTQ archive.

He had previously published a book about his historical investigations of his former home in Cross Street, Barnsbury.

Coroner Graeme Irvine ruled that Mr King had taken his own life in April.

Mr King’s close friend Professor Judith William­son told the inquest at St Pancras Coroner’s Court on Wednesday that Mr King was “doing the best to manage but not quite managing” when it came to his finances – “despite living extremely frugally”.

She said: “It’s clear he was strug­­gling financial­ly,” adding that her friend had been “daunted” by the Personal Indepen­dence Payment (PIP) application to the Department for Work and Pensions which provides extra funds to those with long-term illnesses or disabilities.

Professor Williamson told the court: “The PIP form was extremely invasive, it’s 40 pages and he never filled it in.”

She described how he had later “withdrawn” from the application and she found the incomplete form in his home while sorting out his personal items.

She also said Mr King struggled with his Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) application, which is another form of benefit usually arranged through the Jobcentre for those unable to work.

Mr King at Cross Street

“He was required to repeat issues that were very sensitive to him,” said Professor Williamson.

“It seems he felt that his credibility was being questioned when he was making this claim.

“He found it humiliating and embarrassing to put it down in writing to justify himself.”

The court heard how Mr King had struggled with physical health problems related to cancer and mental health issues in the lead-up to his death.

Mr Irvine did not detail Mr King’s illnesses but said he had “serious health problems”.

The coroner said that Mr King “wasn’t in a large amount of debt but it seems to have been constant and taken a toll on his mental state”.

He was unable to take up long-term work because of his illnesses, the court had heard.

Professor Williamson described her friend of almost 40 years as a “unique, creative and wonderful person” whose struggles with the benefit system were not unique to just him.

Mr King’s “good friend” Les Swain explained how he went to Mr King’s house on April 21 after being unable to reach him by phone and found him dead.

He said his friend’s mental health had “deteriorated” in the run-up to his death.

Mr Irvine concluded that the “cumulative effect” of Mr King’s financial and health issues “had a great impact” on him.

• For emotional support call the Samaritans’ free helpline on 116 123 or alternatively email jo@samaritans.org

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