Posted on February 4, 2019
An inquest, which is due to begin today, will examine whether there was a lack of support for two soldiers who died in suspected suicides at Ballykinler in County Down. Lance Corporal James Ross and Rifleman Darren Mitchell, who both served in Afghanistan, died within three months of each other in 2012 and 2013. Both were found hanged. Their families claim that they had nobody to turn to with their problems and did not provide a conducive environment for soldiers who might be struggling on their return from operations overseas.
Linda Ketcher, mother of LCpl James Ross, said: “When your children join the Army, you understand you might lose them in a warzone – but you don’t expect to lose them when they should be safe at their barracks. Our sons risked their lives for their country, but we fear they were seriously let down in return. This inquest can’t bring James back, but we hope that by dragging failings into the light we will force the Army to learn lessons and put things right, so other families aren’t made to suffer the way we have.”
Both men had previously been on active service with 2nd Battalion the Rifles. An additional eight incidents of serious self-harm involving other soldiers in the same unit were recorded over a six-month period within which the men died. A preliminary hearing of the inquest was told a colleague described Ballykinler barracks as “Bally Kill Yourself”.
Written evidence submitted from the victims’ families disclosed that LCpl Ross had previously spoken about the loss of personnel during overseas combat. The Army had previously conducted its own internal inquiry, which took well over year. It did find a series of serious failings, including inadequate measures for dealing with vulnerable soldiers who were in need of help at an isolated base.
The inquest, which is expected to last three weeks, will also be examining the training of nurses.