A FORMER farm labourer shot himself after learning that his benefits were being stopped, an inquest heard.

Nicholas Peter Barker, of Bridge Farm Close, Helmsley, was found dead in his front garden with a shotgun at his feet by his neighbour on December 10 last year.

In a statement, Keith Howes said he had known Mr Barker for 11 years and described him as a “nice chap who got on with everyone”.

“I saw him that morning as he was putting out his bin and he seemed to be happy and his normal self, not depressed or sad,” Mr Howes told the inquest at Scarborough Magistrates’ Court.

“That evening I was in my front room watching the television, when at about 6pm I heard a long bang. It was so loud I nearly shot out of my skin, but it was very dark outside and I couldn’t see anything.”

Mr Howes said he went outside and saw Mr Barker slumped in a chair.

“I also saw that there was a gun on the floor. I ran inside and phoned 999,” he said.

A post mortem examination revealed that Mr Barker, who was 51, had died from a massive head injury due to a gunshot wound.

The report added that no drugs or alcohol had been detected.

Mr Barker’s former wife, Linda Barker, who gave evidence at the inquest, said they had been married for 12 years and separated in 1995, although they still saw each other on a regular basis.

“During the first half of our marriage he suffered a brain haemorrhage and although he was ok and could still do things, one side was quite paralysed and he was not able to work,” Mrs Barker told the inquest. “I know he had been on some sort of benefit for a number of years.”

Mrs Barker said she had last seen Mr Barker on December 8 when he had called to see her at work.

“He was going for a drink and seemed happy but he wanted me to help him go through his benefit papers because he was worried that he was going to be sent back to work,” she added.

“I told him not to worry as he wasn’t able to work and I said I would come and see him.”

Mrs Barker said he was due to attend an appeal hearing on December 18 against a decision to stop his benefits.

“He was always a happy man and never spoke about private matters in public, so I knew this was worrying him as he had talked about it in front of other people,” she said.

A statement from Mr Barker’s doctor said they had spoken on the phone on December 4 and he had been upset because his benefits were being stopped after an annual assessment as he did not have the required number of points to qualify.

Coroner Michael Oakley said that Mr Barker’s death had been a deliberate act and that he had killed himself.

“The main factor worrying him was that his benefits had been stopped and had he attended the appeal he may have been successful, but it did not get that far,” he said. “It is evident that the matter was concerning him greatly.”