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Soldier praised for courage in Afghanistan ‘could not stop the nightmares’

A coroner recorded a narrative conclusion in the case of Nathan Hunt, who served with Prince Harry.

A soldier mentioned in dispatches for his courage in locating roadside bombs while serving alongside Prince Harry in Afghanistan was found dead after suffering years of nightmares and sleepless nights, an inquest has heard.

Lincoln Coroner’s Court was told that Warrant Officer Nathan Hunt was diagnosed with signs of PTSD after being tasked with clearing IEDs in 2008, despite not being qualified for the role.

Another soldier who worked to tackle IEDs with WO Hunt told the hearing “command pressure” within the Army had “blood on their hands” following the 39-year-old’s death.

Coroner Paul Smith was told that WO Hunt, a father-of-one, was pronounced dead after family members called police to his home in Lincoln on January 2 this year.

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Warrant Officer Nathan Hunt (front right) with Prince Harry (back centre), Dean Smith (back left) and other members of their battle group on deployment in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan (John Stillwell/PA)

The Royal Engineer’s widow, Lainey Hunt, told the inquest she had seen an “immense difference” in her husband after an incident during his tour of Afghanistan in 2008.

Asked by the coroner to comment on the circumstances of the death, Mrs Hunt told the inquest: “I believe Nathan had had enough.

“He could not stop the nightmares and that night he believed the only way to stop them was to end his life.”

Former soldier Dean Smith, who served as a search team commander during the 2008 tour, called for the Household Cavalry to be investigated over its oversight of WO Hunt who was found hanged.

Claiming his comrade had been used “illegally” as an IED-clearer, Mr Smith told the coroner: “I stood up against command pressure, that command pressure has got blood on their hands today.”

Taking into account the totality of the evidence I am not persuaded to the required standard (of proof) that this is a death that should be recorded as a suicide Coroner

The inquest heard that WO Hunt, who also served in Northern Ireland, the Falklands, Bosnia, Canada, Kuwait and Tunisia, was regarded as a “consummate professional” who would go the extra mile to achieve success.

The coroner also heard that the “extremely popular” serviceman had a long history of depression, and had been prescribed anti-depressant medication after being discharged from treatment in 2011.

Recording a narrative conclusion, the coroner said: “Taking into account the totality of the evidence I am not persuaded to the required standard (of proof) that this is a death that should be recorded as a suicide.

“It is certainly possible that Mr Hunt intended his own death, it may even be said to be probable, but I find I cannot be satisfied of that so that I am sure.”

A spokesman confirmed shortly after WO Hunt’s death that Prince Harry had written a private letter of condolence to his family.

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