Grieving Auckland mum Maree Tinsley’s $6300 bill shock after son’s suicide

A grieving mum says she’s been stung by an unexpected $6300 bill for the commercial cleaning of a van her son died in.

The general manager of Crime Scene Cleaners, Carl Loader, told her to “just use your insurance” or make instalments to pay the bill, later expressed interest in buying the van, and also asked if she wanted to be in a TV programme about suicide, Maree Tinsley said.

The cleaning bill includes a more than $4000 charge for 27 of the 41 hours Crime Scene Cleaners say it took staff to clean the Toyota Hi-Ace van after Tinsley’s 43-year-old son Brad Tinsley took his own life in West Auckland on February 7.

Other charges included $495 for ozone treatment and a $250 callout fee, but another commercial cleaner has questioned the bill, saying based on their understanding of the job the total cost should’ve been between $500 and $3000.

Loader told the Herald on Sunday he didn’t want to comment other than to sayhis “condolences go out to the family”.

Tinsley, who found her son’s body at 8am after his death the evening before, said she “knows death” from working in aged care and the van wasn’t badly soiled.

Her son’s bladder had emptied but there was no blood.

“I understand they had to use chemicals, I understand they might’ve had a few issues. But I can’t do $6300 for a van that size.”

Her grandson booked Crime Scene Cleaners online, paying $500 as requested, Tinsley said.

“It also said there could be additional charges for cleaning products etc.”

When staff returned the van on February 25 they said they’d had “a few issues” removing smell and also needed to discard the van’s rear side panels.

“[But] there was no quote, there was no phone call to say ‘we’ve struck a problem’.”

She discovered the cost when Loader called on March 3.

“[He said] he’d be sending me an invoice for $5000 … he said that it should’ve been $10,000 but he’d reduced it for me. He said, ‘claim it on your insurance’ to which I said, ‘they won’t pay for it’.”

Loader told her to “just start paying in instalments” before ending the conversation.

Earlier Loader spoke “incessantly about himself, his family, his boxing”, Tinsley said.

“He talked about … how he sometimes felt a bit depressed because they’re always going to these dreadful situations.”

Loader also said he’d looked up Brad’s Facebook and that her son “seemed a really nice guy” and he wanted to “find out a bit about me”, Tinsley said.

“He talked about a TV programme … one episode is on suicide and he said, ‘given the circumstances I’d be quite a good candidate to talk about it’. I said I wasn’t up for that.”

The invoice “got dropped in the last couple of minutes” of the conversation.

It included a charge for technical labour of 27 hours – reduced by Loader from the 41 hours he said had actually been performed.

“Forty-one hours – that’s eight hours a day, five days a week. I’m a single mum. I’ve just had a $16,000 funeral bill and now he’s hitting me with $6300 to clean the van.

Auckland Steam ‘n’ Dry owner Graeme Stephens, whose company also does commercial cleaning, said Crime Scene Cleaners’ hourly rate of $150 wasn’t too bad, but the hours quoted “seems quite high”.

“I’d think a good day would do it.”

The $250 callout fee was also high – they charged $120 to $150 -as was the $258 fee for “two units” of PPE; it should be about $50 in total for a “pretty serious contamination”, which this job didn’t appear to be, he said.

The $170 fee for chemicals was also high while $495 for an ozone treatment was much more than he charged.

Tinsley’s invoice states three of the treatments – in which a natural deodoriser removes smells – were used, but only one billed.

An ozone session shouldn’t last more than 24 hours, as it could damage rubber, and he usually charged $40 a day for the treatment, Stephens said.

Ozone treatment was very effective, including with carbon monoxide and urine smells, he said.

“I’d expect that [the bill for] the entire job would’ve ranged from $500 to $3000.”

Tinsley is yet to pay the bill for cleaning the van and is sharing her story to warn others.

“When he said, ‘just get it on insurance’ I thought, ‘is that what this bill’s really about? Just charge whatever you like and tell them to get it on insurance?’ You can’t do that to people.”

She said things had been difficult enough in dealing with her son’s death.

Brad was a loving dad-of-two and a builder who so enjoyed the outdoors he once walked the length of the country, Tinsley said.

He loved to share his enthusiasm for outdoor challenges with his own children and those he met while speaking at schools about goal-setting and nature.

“He loved the country to pieces, he talked a lot about New Zealand and its treasures.

“It’s hard enough with the suicide. It’s hard enough with having to organise a funeral and bury your child. I don’t want anybody else to go through this.”

Where to get help:

• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youth services: (06) 3555 906
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
• Helpline: 1737

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

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