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Case Study 5

Suicide tragedy follows auction purchase

Regrettably there are some cases where the HHPF is unable to help. This appears to be the case with the tragic death of Louis, a farmer who committed suicide, aged 43.

His widow, Ella, described the circumstances preceding his death in a Statutory Declaration.

A dairy farm came on the market to be auctioned. Louis and Ella inspected the property before the auction and were told that the vendors wanted about $1.3 million or $1.4 million. They made a pre-auction written offer of $1.15 million, which was declined.

Ella said: "Leading up to the designated auction date, the agent ('P’) was very persistent and his behaviour was bordering on harassment. He would attend our home every day wanting us to lodge a fresh contract for a higher amount. On numerous occasions, I would go out and when I returned home, he would be waiting there ".

"P also constantly phoned us, day and night, to see whether we would raise our offer. During the month of January, we constantly indicated to P that we would not make any further offers until the designated auction."

Ella recalls that on auction day, the auctioneer had difficulties obtaining the first bid.

"Then the initial bid came in, I believe it was for $1.1 million. I don’t know where or who made this initial bid. Louis then made the second bid for $1.15 million, then the third bid came in for $1.2 million, however, I couldn’t see who made this bid. At the time, I tried to look around as to see whom we were competing against, however, I never saw any raised hands or voices when the other bids were made. Louis then made our last offer for $1.25 million. Shortly after Louis made this bid, another bid came in from somewhere for $1.3 million. After this bid, there were no other offers."

"The auctioneer then went inside and spoke to the owners. Several minutes later, the auctioneer returned and stated that the property had not reached the reserve price. It was at this time that P approached us and invited us inside to negotiate with the vendors. We were surprised at this strategy, because we knew we weren’t the last bidders, however, we were the persons invited inside. After the auction had finished, P immediately approached us. At no time did he speak with or approach any other person.

"Inside the house, there were three agents and the owners. P then applied an enormous amount of pressure on Louis to make another offer above $1.25 million. After about 15-20 minutes, Louis 'crumbled’ under the constant pressure and I believe that he felt compelled to make another offer, which was for $1.285 million. The owners then accepted this offer and we then signed the appropriate documentation."

They paid a 10% deposit ($128,500). Ella recalls her husband was "very agitated and upset" and that while driving home he kept on repeating: "We shouldn’t have done it."

Ella said: "Louis was the type of person who worried about finances - and after the auction, he was never the same. Louis then became more and more depressed about our financial situation...Louis wasn’t eating or sleeping through the constant worry. Some days he wouldn’t get out of bed, he couldn’t physically cope any more. By this stage, the dairy business was suffering... Louis’s behaviour was totally out of character, as he had never suffered from depression before, or any other mental or medical condition."

Early on 2 March sons John and Wayne found their father dead inside his ute, parked in the machinery shed. A poly pipe was connected from the exhaust to the interior and the engine was still running. The Coroner determined the cause of death as carbon monoxide poisoning.

Louis and Ella had earlier started arrangements for the sale of their existing three properties. A Contract for Sale had been signed for one property but the other two properties remained unsold.

Ella said the buyer of their property offered to release them from the sale. She then sought to cancel the purchase. A settlement for the release of contract was accepted, being a payment of $200,000. This payment was divided into two parts: the first was made up with the initial deposit, being $128,500, and an additional amount of $71,500 which came from Louis’s Life Insurance payout.

A Statutory Declaration has been taken from Ella. However, given the time lapse since the events, it appears too late for further action.

Agency appointment in dispute
NSW couple loses $35,000 under auction day pressure