Army veteran and his wife die in tragic ‘suicide pact’ after becoming ‘too poor to live through the winter’
Every month the couple walked 12 miles to a soup kitchen to get free food
Charity said they ‘slipped through the net’
Mark and Helen Mullins kept food in plastic bags in their garden because they couldn’t afford a fridge
Driven to despair at having to live off £57.50 a week
Poverty-stricken pair found dead at home last Friday
By Andy Dolan
Last updated at 11:33 PM on 9th November 2011
A newly married couple forced to live on £57 a week killed themselves in despair after being ‘abandoned’ by social services, their friends claimed yesterday.
The bodies of Mark and Helen Mullins were found lying side by side at their run-down home in an apparent suicide pact.
News of the tragedy emerged yesterday as friends told how they had been forced to live ‘hand to mouth’, making a weekly 12-mile trip to a soup kitchen on foot after Mrs Mullins’ benefits were stopped 18 months ago.
The couple were given free vegetables at the soup kitchen in Coventry each Sunday, which they boiled into a broth on a camping stove.
They lived in just one room of their terraced house to save on heating costs and could not afford a fridge so kept their food in plastic bags in the garden.
They are believed to have killed themselves after 18 months of struggling to survive on the £57.50 Jobseeker’s Allowance payment Mr Mullins, a 48-year-old former Army physical training instructor, was able to claim.
Their heart-breaking plight was revealed yesterday, five days after their bodies were discovered at their council house in Bedworth, Warwickshire.
Charity workers who befriended the couple said society had allowed them to ‘slip through the net’.
Mrs Mullins, 59, suffered from learning difficulties and social services are understood to have taken her 12-year-old daughter away last year after she was considered to be incapable of looking after her.
As a result, her child benefits were stopped but she was ineligible to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance because she was not deemed fit to work.
She was also told she did not qualify for incapacity benefit because she had not been officially diagnosed with a medical condition.
Mr Mullins was his wife’s full-time carer. He fought to get a carer’s allowance but was told he could not claim until she was diagnosed with a disorder.
Officers discovered their bodies after neighbours reported they had not been seen for some days. Kervin Julien, who runs the Salvation Army soup kitchen in Coventry used by the couple, said: ‘The question needs to be asked – why was it they felt they had no one else to turn to?
‘It’s sad that in this day and age we have still got prehistoric services that are not meeting the needs of the people who need them.’
Mr Julien, who appeared in TV programme The Secret Millionaire, added: ‘They walked everywhere hand in hand, like young lovers.
‘Mark talked about the authorities taking Helen’s daughter away from her but not acknowledging her mental health problems.
‘They had been staying with relatives and friends to try and avoid the authorities, as they believed they wanted to section Helen. They just wanted support.’
It is understood the couple married in July last year, shortly after they appeared in an online documentary about people living below the poverty line in Warwickshire.
Mr Mullins said in the interview: ‘The job centre decided Helen couldn’t sign on as she was incapable of employment as she has no literacy and numeracy skills.
Mr and Mrs Mullins were forced to walk ten miles each week into Coventry city centre to a soup kitchen where they could get free vegetables
‘However, the incapacity people wouldn’t recognise her disabilities. We’re in a catch 22 situation. We’re living hand to mouth.’
One neighbour said: ‘The authorities turned their back on them.
‘They obviously couldn’t face another freezing winter and felt they had no other choice but to kill themselves.’
Police said they were not looking for anyone else in connection with the deaths. Warwickshire County Council refused to comment because the couple are yet to be formally identified.
A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: ‘The couple in question had been receiving weekly benefits from the department since February 2010 – these included money for disability and caring responsibilities as well as out of work support.
‘We had not received any complaint from them about their benefit claim.’