Heartbroken mum and toddler son find his beloved dad dying in the street

A teacher found the "love of her life" collapsed and dying in the street after she went looking for him when he was late home from a jog.

Distraught Laura Rudd says her world has “come crashing down” and spoke of her devastation trying to explain the tragedy to their two-year-old son.

The 34-year-old and Noah went searching for his dad Nigel and feared the worst when they saw him lying on the street with paramedics at his side.

Tragically Nigel, 50, had collapsed from a heart attack and died near their home.

Laura said: "I found the ambulance when I went out to look for him with Noah and from there our world came crashing down.

“I lost the love of my life and our little boy lost his daddy at an age when he is far too young to grasp what that means.

“He just thinks his daddy is hiding and keeps asking when he is going to come home.”

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On Valentine's Day, instead of celebrating with her partner, Laura found herself registering his death and organising his funeral.

In a further devastating twist, Laura then discovered that even though she and Nigel were together for nine years, the law does not recognise them as a couple.

Instead she has had to register him as a single man and she could not be his next of kin, registering only as "the person organising the funeral".

Laura, who was born and bred in Grimsby, Lincs, said: "It was a truly low point in the worst week of my life.

“It was a spit in the face for nearly a decade spent together, simply because in the eyes of the law Noah and I aren’t even recognised."

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Laura says her experience shows the "soul destroying" discrimination against unmarried parents in the event of their partner passing away.

She haw now launched an Equality in Grief campaign to make the law fairer.

If the couple were married or in a civil partnership, she would also have been entitled to receive some financial support to help cover the cost of his funeral and raise Noah.

Laura says she would have benefited from the help but says her campaign is motivated by the injustice of not being recognised as a couple.

This had been ruled unlawful by the supreme court in 2018 but no changes in the law have been introduced.

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Laura and Nigel had recently bought a house together in Wilberfoss in East Yorkshire and were planning on getting married.

She said: "Six months ago we bought a house so that we could settle down as a family and once we were ready we planned on getting married.

"Instead I have had to go through this soul destroying ordeal and figure out some way that I can tell my son why his daddy is no longer with us."

Bereavement support payment was introduced in April 2017 to replace three separate payments (widowed parent’s allowance, bereavement payment and bereavement allowance). It is paid as a lump sum of up to £3,500 and then at a rate of up to £350 a month for the first 18 months after the death.

Those who lost a partner before the rule change can continue to claim the older benefits until their children leave full-time education or they move in with a new partner.

However, anyone who loses a partner to whom they were not married is not entitled to make a claim. There are 3.3 million cohabiting couples in the UK, and of these about 1.2 million have children.

Laura said: "Times have changed and people are not getting married like they used to. Many people who are together are choosing to delay getting married until they are financially stable or choosing not to do it at all.

"There are millions of people across the country who have the same relationship that Nigel and I had, and I just hope that they never have to feel the unnecessary pain that I have been through.

"The law has not caught up with current society and it needs to change."

The couple had a life insurance policy but Laura has been unable to access any other financial support.

In August 2018, the supreme court ruled that denying an unmarried mother of four children widowed parent’s allowance amounted to discrimination, in a decision that was expected to extend the rights of unmarried couples.

Delivering the majority decision, Lady Hale said: "It is difficult indeed to see the justification for denying people and their children benefits, or paying them at a lower rate of benefit, simply because the adults are not married to one another. Their needs, and more importantly their children’s needs, are the same."

However, 18 months on, there has been no change in the law.

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Laura said: “Many couples mistakenly believe they have the same legal and financial rights and protections as married couples. But when they are struck by tragedy, they are treated like second- class citizens.

“We talk about equality and standing up against discrimination and yet this is still happening. Words cannot describe just how angry I am about it all.

"I have heard many myths in the past week about common law marriage, but these are simply not true.

"I have had friends messaging me who are living with their partners who are now wanting to get married quickly just in case something terrible like this happens to them.

"I have been encouraging them all to write to their local MPs and representatives to put pressure on them to try to change this law and stop the horrors for other families."

Laura’s Equality in Grief appeal intends to address two issues: being able to register someone as part of a cohabiting couple when registering a death and giving cohabiting couples with children the same rights and access to financial support as married couples, such as the bereavement payment.

She is urging everyone to sign and share her petition in the hope that the government will take action to rectify the law and bring an end to discrimination for grieving families.

Laura said: “It won't bring Nigel back to us, but if it means no one else has to go through this then it will be worth the effort.”

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