Councillor facing huge surcharge bill found dead: Fellow Tories believe former Westminster housing chairman accused in report on alleged gerrymandering committed suicide

ONE OF the 10 Westminster City councillors and officials facing a pounds 21m surcharge over allegations of gerrymandering has apparently killed himself, after announcing that he could not afford to mount a legal defence.

Police said last night that Dr Michael Dutt, a former housing committee chairman, died from gunshot wounds but no one else was being sought in connection with his death. Fellow Conservatives believe that he committed suicide after being 'pilloried' in the light of a district auditor's report that accused six councillors and four council officials of wilful misconduct.

Last night, Patrick Evershed, vice-chairman of the Cities of London and Westminster Conservative Association, said: 'Michael Dutt and the other people accused have been pilloried in the media by the publication of the district auditor's report, but they have not been allowed to release other documents they believed would prove their innocence. He publicly denied the charges against him, but he would have been ruined by the costs of defending himself. If you drive a man to despair in this way, something like this is bound to happen.'

Dr Dutt, 43, a councillor between 1986 and 1990, was found alone in his flat at St Albans, Hertfordshire, on Wednesday night. It is understood that he had been absent for two days from his practice in Knightsbridge, and from St Albans and Hemel Hempstead Hospital, where he specialised in medicine for the elderly.

One fellow Tory, who asked not to be named, said that she understood documents relating to the Westminster gerrymandering affair were found by his side.

Dr Dutt, along with Dame Shirley Porter, the former council leader, Barry Legg, who subsequently became a Conservative MP, and seven others, was accused of mounting an allegedly illegal campaign to empty council houses in marginal wards and sell them to potential Conservative voters.

Last week, in an open letter to John Magill, the District Auditor, he wrote: 'There are a number of falsehoods and twisted interpretations in what you say. I had no interest and was not influenced by considerations of gerrymandering at any time . . . although I believe the High Court would reverse your findings, this together with hearings in the (Court of) Appeal and Lords would last several years and consume resources and energy I do not have, while attempting to conduct my medical work.'

Last night, Mr Magill said: 'Any news like this is extremely tragic.'

Simon Milton, the deputy leader of Westminster City Council, said he was appalled by Dr Dutt's death. 'We have to question a system of local government inspection which can allow the production of the most damaging report in the most lurid language before it has gone to court and then claim it is only a 'provisional' report, allowing it to be widely repeated by the media. We also have to question a system that can allow loyal, hard-working public servants to live with the threat of being professionally and financially ruined by enormous surcharges,' he added.

Another Conservative said Dr Dutt had been depressed by the possibility of being surcharged.

Paul Dimoldenberg, former leader of the Labour group on the council, said: 'This is dreadful news. Dr Dutt was a quiet person but, politically, he was highly intelligent and enjoyed the cut-and-thrust of debate.'

Hertfordshire Police said that the coroner had been informed and an inquest would be held on Monday.

(Photograph omitted)

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Life and Style
tech

Apple has been hit by complaints about the 1.1GB download

Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff
tv

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Arts and Entertainment
tv

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife
film

Matt Smith is set to join cast of the Jane Austen classic - with a twist

Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmWhat makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
Life and Style
i100

Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Data Analyst / Marketing Database Analyst

£24000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Analyst – 2 year fixed term contract – Kent – Circa £55k

£45000 - £55000 Per Annum 31 days holiday, pension, healthcare, annual bonus: ...

**SEN Primary Teacher Serf Unit **

£110 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Preston: We are looking for an experie...

Experienced Foundation Teacher

£100 - £222 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: We are currently recruiting f...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week