Belfast Telegraph

Soldiers regularly referred to barracks as 'Bally-kill-yourself', inquest hears

James Ross was found dead at Ballykinler
James Ross was found dead at Ballykinler
Darren Mitchell was found dead at Ballykinler
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

An inquest into the deaths of two soldiers at an "isolated" Army barracks in Co Down has heard how it was common place for soldiers to refer to the Ballykinler base as "Bally-kill-yourself".

Driving instructor William Riley, who had been taking L/Cpl James Ross for HGV lessons in the week before his suspected suicide, yesterday told Ballymena Court the 30-year-old, who was found hanged in December 2012, was one of many who had used the term.

Mr Riley, of Lloyds School of Motoring, also told how L/Cpl Ross had cut a "frustrated" figure in the week before his death, displayed an attitude problem and had been involved in a verbal altercation with another instructor two days before his death.

Three months later another soldier, Rifleman Darren Mitchell (20), was also found hanged at the base. Both men had not long returned from service in Afghanistan.

"There was a lot of complaining about Ballykinler," Mr Riley told the court about his conversations with L/Cpl Ross.

"He was constantly telling of not wanting to be there. He referred to his base as 'Bally-kill-yourself'."

When asked if that was the first time Mr Riley had heard the base called by that name, he replied: "No. I'd heard that many, many times. It's what a lot of soldiers from Ballykinler told me."

And when asked if it was simply a case of "squaddie humour", Mr Riley replied: "Maybe. Black humour.

"But he seemed to have an issue about the base, saying there was nothing to do, nowhere to go. And he was having issues in his relationship with his girlfriend. He told me he 'wanted rid' of her.

"By the end of the week I decided he was unsuitable to take the test at that stage, but would be able to come back the following week. I sensed he was disappointed and frustrated with himself, perhaps for not being ready and failing to apply himself to the course properly."

Mr Riley also documented a verbal exchange between L/Cpl Ross and another instructor, Mr Walker.

"There were raised voices," said Mr Riley. "He said: 'Don't you dare talk to me like that'. But Mr Walker has a hearing aid and with a lot of people also around he had to speak louder than normal to get his instructions across."

He said he had not witnessed any physical violence.

Also giving evidence was Leonard Maleiba, a physical training instructor at Ballykinler.

Mr Maleiba said L/Cpl Ross had seemed in good spirits after a recent promotion and had planned to stay at the camp over the Christmas holidays to work on his fitness. "We spoke on the Friday evening," he told the court. "I asked him if he'd like to come to my home on Christmas Eve and attend Mass. Ballykinler isn't a pleasant place to be over Christmas and he seemed pleased with the invitation.

"I was with him for around 30% of the time on the Friday night before he died," Mr Maleiba added. "Some said he was in a bad way after the party and I spoke to a few people who said they had told him to go to bed as he'd had a lot to drink."

The inquest continues today.

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