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Nurse raised concerns over 'tired and tearful' soldier, Ballykinler deaths inquest told

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Darren Mitchell

Darren Mitchell

PA

James Ross

James Ross

PA

Darren Mitchell

A nurse raised concerns about the mental state of a "very tearful" soldier who smelled of alcohol four months before he took his own life at a Co Down Army base, an inquest has heard.

Civilian nurse Louise McPherson assessed Darren Mitchell (20) on October 1, 2012 after he reported how episodes of vomiting meant he could not report for duties, she told a coroner yesterday.

The Londoner was found hanged in his room at Ballykinler on February 10, 2013, just months after Lance Corporal James Ross (30) was found hanging in his room at the base.

During the assessment, Ms McPherson noted a "strong odour of alcohol" from Mr Mitchell, who was "anxious and withdrawn" and said the "very tearful and tired" serviceman was not willing to open up about his emotional wellbeing.

Ms McPherson noted he continued to appear anxious the following day when she obtained his consent to share concerns with his chain of command.

However, Sergeant Andrew Beattie told the inquest that he dismissed concerns over Mr Mitchell's low mood as a reaction to pending disciplinary proceedings as a result of several incidents of lateness.

However, the now retired serviceman said he did ask officers to keep an eye on Mr Mitchell while on training exercises.

Ms McPherson, who said she was unable to pass concerns on to the resident medical officer because they were not on site, failed to account for why she did not do so when they returned.

She rejected the family representative's claim that she failed by not doing so. "I could have informed a doctor, A&E or other MoD clinics," she said.

However, Ms McPherson did accept that information which may have been relevant to someone who knew Mr Mitchell well was "lost in a black hole" as she insisted there was no reason to believe he was suicidal.

Former Rifleman Chris Ingham claimed his best friend "completely changed" following an altercation in a Belfast nightclub and a row on the phone the night before he died.

He told the inquest that the pair drank around 10 pints of beer in the Beach Club where Mr Mitchell was caught up in a confrontation with people slagging off soldiers in the smoking area.

"His posture completely changed," Mr Ingham said. "It was quite unusual because we are in Northern Ireland, because the IRA are still kicking around so you don't say 'I'm a soldier'."

The inquest continues.

Belfast Telegraph