Belfast Telegraph

Hanged soldier's mother accuses Army of cover-up

By Chris Kilpatrick

The mother of a soldier found hanged at a Northern Ireland barracks has accused the Army of covering up what happened prior to his death.

Lance Corporal James Ross, who had previously served in Afghanistan, died in December 2012.

His death was one of two suspected suicides and eight incidents of self-harm among soldiers serving with the 2nd Battalion the Rifles that took place at Ballykinler, Co Down over a seven-month period.

Twenty months on from the 30-year-old's death, his mother, Linda Moore, has hit out at the length of time an internal inquiry is taking.

She said she feared the Army was trying to "hide something".

"I think there was stuff going on that the Army are trying to cover up now," she said.

There has been no evidence of bullying or abuse at Ballykinler.

But concerns have been raised over the care provided for 2 Rifles, which suffered heavy casualties during tours of Afghanistan.

Ms Moore questioned if signs of post-traumatic stress disorder were missed in her son, although she said she had no indication he was distressed.

"I have been keeping a list of all the questions I have about how and why James died and have had no opportunity to put these questions while the inquiry is going on," she told The Sunday Times.

"That is ridiculous. I feel excluded, and deeply upset."

The soldier's family are still awaiting the return of his laptop, iPad and mobile phone.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said the delays were "regrettable".

There have been previous reports of heavy drinking and restricted movements due to dissident republican threats, and exacerbated feelings of loneliness.

Two months after Mr Ross's death, Rifleman Darren Mitchell (20), from Uxbridge, London, was found hanged at the base. He was also a veteran of Afghanistan.

His mother, Carol Mitchell, said her son was left "without the support he needed".

"I am utterly devastated that my son died on barracks here in the UK," she said. "I still don't know what happened and why. I always thought once the soldiers were back on their base they were safe. They are not."

Inquests into the deaths have been delayed until the Army investigations are complete.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "Our thoughts remain with the families of Lance Corporal James Ross and Rifleman Darren Mitchell at this difficult time.

"We continue to make every effort to keep both families informed of the inquiry and are working closely with Liberty (a human rights organisation) at the request of the families to do this.

"This is a complex investigation and it is important that it is done properly so that we can learn any lessons and try to prevent anything like this happening again.

"Recent delays in finalising this inquiry are regrettable but the families have been kept informed throughout the process."

Story so far

Two veterans of Afghanistan, Lance Corporal James Ross (30) and Rifleman Darren Mitchell (20) died at Ballykinler, Co Down.

Eight incidents of self-harm were recorded over a seven-month period at the base, where many of the 565 troops are housed in single rooms.

Reports of heavy drinking and restricted movements due to dissident republican threats were previously reported.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph