The family of a man stripped of disability allowance because he did a charity bike ride say benefits bosses hounded him to death.
Nathan Hartwell, 36, died of heart failure after an 18-month battle with the Department for Works and Pensions.
They stopped his allowance, accused him of lying about his condition and demanded £11,000 after learning he had cycled from John O’Groats to Land’s End and back to raise £2,000 for Help for Heroes.
The DWP pursued Nathan even after prosecutors dropped a benefits fraud charge against him.
Reports by two surgeons said although walking caused him pain, he could ride a bike.
The former IT salesman had contracted a flesh-eating bug aged 15 and needed vein transplants. He was forced to give up work at 27.
His disability was so bad he was told by doctors before one operation that he might lose a leg.
Girlfriend Karen Colam said: “The DWP carried out a sustained campaign against Nathan and the pressure killed him. He had never had heart problems.
“Giving up work devastated him but he was in terrible pain every day. He could barely walk 10 yards. He thought he was making a difference to war heroes when he did that ride.”
Nathan was found dead hours before a Citizens Advice appointment about his case in January. Karen said: “My world fell apart.”
His dad Rob, 60, added: “We’ve no doubt he gave up as he couldn’t face the stress.”
Nathan was on morphine as he spent three months in 2010 on his 2,000-mile ride.
Karen of Perranporth, Cornwall, said: “Nathan’s pain was immense so I’ve no idea how he managed to finish it but he was determined.”
When the DWP found out two years later they stopped his £105 a week and demanded benefits dating back to his ride.
They ignored the collapse of the court case against him, including doctors’ evidence, and started pursuing him under civil law.
Consultant Harvey Chant, of the Royal Cornwall Hospital, said in his report: “I see no medical reason why he would be unable to cycle long distances using his thighs and buttock muscles, but still find walking painful because of calf muscle activity.”
His colleague Simon Ashley, of Nuffield and Plymouth Hospitals, added that Nathan rode despite the “very real belief” he might lose his leg.
Nathan’s Advice Plymouth case worker Nick Dilworth said: “The DWP has got it wrong. I am helping Nathan’s family dispute the civil case.”
A DWP spokesman said: “Higher rate DLA Mobility is paid to help people with severe disabilities who are either unable to walk or virtually unable to walk.
“Support goes to those who need it most.”
Report by The Mirror