Sunday 8 December 2019

Stefan came for a better life - but hanged himself over an unpaid ESB bill

Eimear Ni Bhraonain

His widow has pleaded with the authorities for money to return home with his body

A SLOVAKIAN man who came to Ireland for a better life killed himself because he could not afford to pay a €650 ESB bill.

Stefan Adami (55) moved here in 2007 and worked odd jobs to send money home to his wife and children.

The dad of four had to have his leg amputated after it became infected following an accident involving a tractor two years ago.

Tragically, Stefan had neglected a small injury on the back of his heel he sustained in the accident and didn't go to hospital. It is thought he feared the authorities would find out he was working on a farm.

However, the injury worsened and by the time he sought help it was too late and he lost his leg. His wife, Emilia (49), arrived in Ireland in January to help take care of her husband.

However, the couple ran into financial problems and Stefan became depressed and rarely left the house despite having a prosthetic leg and crutch that enabled him to get around.

The couple changed electricity supplier in an effort to save money but they still owed €650 to the ESB and Stefan's despair deepened. His disability allowance was also cut because he failed to present himself at a dole office with his wife.

Eventually, cold and hungry, he hobbled from his home in Tullow, Co Carlow, on Friday night. On Monday he was discovered hanging from a tree in a field some two miles away.

Yesterday the grieving widow pleaded with the authorities to give her enough money to return home with Stefan's body.

Last night, Ann Fogel, a friend of the Adami family, said: "Fianna Fail was able to spend a few thousand euro drinking and eating at a party. Bertie Ahern was able to spend thousands on his make-up to look good on television. Mary Harney has a new hair cut, but Stefan and his wife, Emilia, went without food, electricity and heat for three days before he hung himself.

"Stefan was left to rot while the Government and everybody in it can party and dress like they're in a fashion show. Stefan was reduced to suicide -- that is what this Government in Ireland is doing with these cuts."

Ann, who married a Slovakian, Robert Fogel, took Emilia out of a "cold and dark" flat in Tullow, Co Carlow, after her husband went missing last Friday. Emilia is now staying with Ann in a house on the edge of Brian Cowen's Laois-Offaly constituency, on Sleaty Street in Graiguecullen, Carlow.

Gardai called to the house on Monday night to confirm Emilia's worst fears. Stefan had been found hanging from a tree in a field not far from the luxury five-star Mount Wolseley hotel in Tullow.

She cannot speak English but through Mr Fogel yesterday, Emilia conveyed that she was praying that the Irish Government would step in to help her family's plight.

Emilia said her children -- Marek (34), Marel (32), Tomas (26), and Zuzana (24) -- could not afford to pay for their father's repatriation as they survived on €75 a month each.

So far the Slovakian embassy has offered to pay the price of Emilia's flight home and for the cremation of Stefan's remains. However, Emilia wants to give him a proper burial in Slovakia -- and most of all, to bring his body home to his children in a coffin.

Tullow councillor John Pender advised the family to contact Joe Duffy's 'Liveline' show in a desperate attempt to raise funds for Stefan's repatriation. Ordinary people were moved and have been sending donations to the funeral home, McGuill's in Bennekerry.


Stefan got "so depressed" after getting into financial trouble and couldn't afford an ESB bill of €648.54. His disability allowance was also cut.

"The social welfare sent Stefan a letter asking him if he could bring his wife to the dole office. It's part of the clampdown on fraud," said Ann.

"Stefan didn't do it, with his depression or maybe he didn't understand the letter. He wasn't cut off out of badness. The social welfare did it because they didn't see Emilia so they didn't believe she was here."

Emilia had a bag of candles in her hand waiting for Stefan to come home when Ann and her husband found her.

"She didn't even have food. When we brought her here, the first thing my husband did was make her something to eat."

Stefan showed his wife how to fill her lighter with gas before he left the house on Friday. She didn't think it was unusual as he said he would be back in a few hours. He never returned home.

Yesterday, Emilia clutched her husband's driving identification cards, his passport photos and a handful of letters. The letters include a "final notice" to pay their ESB bill on October 2 this year. It states: "We have been instructed by ESB to recover this overdue account, in the sum of €648.54, on their behalf. Although they would prefer an amicable settlement, they will not hesitate to commence legal proceedings if required."

Ann said this was the letter that prompted Stefan to say "enough is enough".

An ESB spokesman last night said it was a "tragic case" but said they did not threaten Mr Adami with disconnection. The customer had switched electricity suppliers recently, the spokesman said.

He said the ESB was prepared to engage with customers who could not afford to repay debts. "Come and talk to us, we understand the difficulties people are facing."

The ESB also said it had pledged €1m to suicide prevention and counselling in recent days and was "acutely aware" of the issues.

Irish Independent

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