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Ballykinler barracks deaths inquiry exposes series of army blunders

By Nevin Farrell

Published 15/06/2015

An inquiry into the suspected suicides of two Afghanistan veterans and eight further incidents of self-harm at Ballykinler army camp in Co Down has exposed a series of blunders
An inquiry into the suspected suicides of two Afghanistan veterans and eight further incidents of self-harm at Ballykinler army camp in Co Down has exposed a series of blunders

An inquiry into the suspected suicides of two Afghanistan veterans and eight further incidents of self-harm at Ballykinler army camp in Co Down has exposed a series of blunders.

Officers at the barracks were warned that at least one of the soldiers who died was suffering from the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) four months before he was found hanged, a report reveals.

The army launched an inquiry following the deaths of Lance-Corporal James Ross (30), in December 2012 and Rifleman Darren Mitchell (20), two months later.

Both men, of the 2nd Battalion the Rifles, had fought in Afghanistan. Like Mitchell, Ross was found hanged. The army probe found Mitchell had visited a base nurse in October 2012 in a distressed state, according to his family and the nurse was so concerned she broke patient confidentiality and reported the matter to the soldier's officers.

"You are sort of prepared to lose your son if he goes to Afghanistan - you don't expect to lose him at home," said Darren Mitchell's mother Carol.

The inquiry found that the "suicide vulnerability and risk management register" - which is supposed to list anyone within the unit at risk of self-harm or suicide - was lost.

It is claimed that an officer mistakenly saved the document on to his laptop but did not back it up on the unit's central computer system.

"We find it extraordinary that the one record that would confirm whether or not our son had been identified as at risk of self-harm or suicide had disappeared," Carol Mitchell said.

The army has told the families that neither Mitchell nor Ross was on the register, but both families are unhappy with their treatment. Last year 2 Rifles moved from Ballykinler to Thiepval Barracks in Lisburn.

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