A PENSIONER killed herself after fearing she would be jailed for claiming too many benefits, an inquest heard.

Dorothy Bryan, 79, was found dead at her home in Bank Street, Padiham, surrounded by notes, empty painkiller packets, and a brandy bottle after becoming increasingly worried she would be sent to prison.

A charity today said older people would not be jailed for claiming too much benefits, and Mrs Bryan's death highlighted the need for older people to know what they were entitled to.

In the weeks before her death, on October 10, Mrs Bryan had bought her family Christmas presents and kept apologising to them, the court was told.

Her son Robert McLean told the inquest that his mother, who was scared to go out by herself following two falls, believed she was claiming too many benefits.

Mr McLean said he thought he had managed to persuade his mother she was entitled to the £208 a week she claimed after he got Social Services to explain to his mother she was doing nothing wrong.

He said: "She was under the impression she was getting too much money. We could not convince her. I got Social Services to come and assure her everything was OK. She came to our house and said they are going to throw me out tomorrow, and that is when it started."

Pathologist Dr Walid Salman told the hearing, at Burnley Magistrates Court, a post mortem examination revealed Mrs Bryan had drunk a lot of alcohol in a short space of time before her death which would have enhanced the effect the painkiller coproxamol would have had on her. He concluded Mrs Bryan died of an overdose.

Recording a verdict that Mrs Bryan took her own life, coroner Richard Taylor said her family did everything they could to allay her fears.

He added: "It does not appear to me (Mrs Bryan's death) to be accidental because of the notes, and the amounts she has taken.

"She goes on about her concerns of going to prison and it is clear her handwriting has got worse as she has continued to write these notes.

"She had contributed to benefits throughout her life and was entitled to them at her age in life. She could not get into her head that she was entitled, and she got more frantic as the days went by that she was going to go to prison."

Linda Salazar, information and advice manager for Age Concern Lancashire, today said older people should contact their local branch if concerned about what benefits they were entitled to.

She added: "Older people would not be sent to prison for claiming too many benefits. Our message normally is people are not claiming their entitlement.

"Older people need to contact their local Age Concern branch and ask for a benefits check and we will go through the procedure with them and make sure they know what they are entitled to."