Canadian Veterans Advocacy Operations > Military Police Complaints Commission - Commission d'examen des plaintes concernant la police militaire

Soldier's mother wonders whether showing suicide video was worth it

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Canadian_Vet:
Soldier's mother wonders whether showing suicide video was worth it
 
By Murray Brewster, The Canadian Press September 3, 2012 9:20 AM

Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/news/national/Soldiers+mother+wonders+whether+showing+suicide+video+worth/7182843/story.html#ixzz25QVLnWxJ


A photo of Cpl. Stuart Langridge is seen along with his beret and medals on a table during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Thursday October 28, 2010 as his mother, Sheila Fynes, speaks about her son's battle with post-traumatic stress disorder and the ongoing struggle with National Defence following his death. A military watchdog's public hearings into the suicide of Cpl. Langridge resumes in Ottawa this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

OTTAWA - Sheila Fynes couldn't sleep most nights this summer, wondering whether she made the right decision in allowing a public inquiry to view a 34-minute military police video of her son's lifeless body hanging from a chin-up bar in his barracks.

The graphic, disturbing images of Cpl. Stuart Langridge, were never released to the news media, but the commission investigating the military's handling of his suicide played it in public, as part of a series of hearings last spring.

His mother and stepfather, Shaun Fynes, wrestled with the question of showing the video almost up until the day it was played.

"There are times when I think I've shared the most personal thing about Stuart's life and I hope, ... I hope it wasn't for nothing," said Sheila Fynes in an interview with The Canadian Press from her Victoria home.

Langridge hanged himself on March 15, 2008, and his body was left in place for four hours while investigators documented and searched through everything in the room.

The video sometimes zoomed in on his head and face. Federal lawyers representing the Defence Department argued in advance that if the video were to be shown, it would have to be in its entirety.

Sheila Fynes said that "at first, we said: No, we don't want anybody ever to see that."

"But then (after) discussions with our lawyer (and) between ourselves, we decided there would be no better way for the chair to understand our allegation of the total disrespect shown to Stuart in his death, than for him to see it."

After a pause, she added: "Was it the right decision? It keeps me awake at night."

Neither Sheila Fynes nor her husband were present when the video was played for the commission.

The Military Police Complaints Commission hearing into the Afghan vet's death resumes Wednesday, with testimony from Shaun Fynes.

In the coming weeks, the commission will put under the microscope not only the Defence Department's handling of the Langridge case, but also how it copes with soldiers suffering from mental illness and post-traumatic stress.

The inquiry also poses a political problem for the Harper government with Defence Minister Peter MacKay's refusal to hand over some internal documents to the military watchdog. That decision echoes a bruising fight with the commission previously over records relating to the treatment of Afghan prisoners.

The Defence Department refutes the claim Langridge suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, following a stint in Afghanistan. The doctor who made the diagnosis is soon to testify, along with military police investigators that are the subject of the complaint.

Members of the National Investigative Service are accused of conducting an inadequate, biased investigation aimed at exonerating the Canadian Forces.

Sheila Fynes says the coming set of hearings "will get to the heart of the matter."

Thus far, testimony from the military contends that Langridge, who also served a tour in Bosnia, was a troubled young man with an addiction to alcohol and cocaine. One expert witness traced the problems as far back as Sheila Fynes' divorce from her son's father.

The military withheld Langridge's suicide note from his family for 14 months, something for which it has apologized.

Yet a jumble of contradictions and missteps were exposed in testimony last spring.

At first, it was claimed Langridge had been under a "suicide watch" prior to his death. But a fellow soldier who attended him refused to describe it that way, saying it was only "a watch."

Witnesses also testified that the military consulted the family about the formulation of policy for dealing with loved ones, something Sheila Fynes angrily denies.

"What has surprised me the most is the levels Justice (department) lawyers have gone to try and paint a very damning picture of our son. And some of the things that have been said by witnesses are so contradictory, and some of the things are just plain, flat-out, vile lies," she said.

Just as the hearings recessed in June, complaints commission chair Glenn Stannard asked for partial access to documents that relate to the Langridge case but were written after military police investigators had been in touch with Defence Department lawyers.

MacKay, in a terse response, refused the plea and told the chairman not to talk to contact him again directly, but instead go through Justice Department lawyers.

That has galvanized one veterans group, which released a letter to MacKay demanding he waive solicitor-client privilege.

"I was quite disillusioned when reading your letter of response, Minister MacKay, not only from a sense of empathy for the Fynes family but to those military policemen who have been accused, our brothers in arms who have been subject to great stress and long-term concerns about potential disciplinary-career consequences," wrote Mike Blais, president of Canadian Veterans Advocacy.

"You have an obligation to those that serve, sir, an obligation to accord to those who have been accused the opportunity to defend themselves with the full truth."

Canadian_Vet:
Stepfather testifies at military inquiry into soldier's suicide

By Leslie MacKinnon, CBC News
Posted: Sep 5, 2012 1:42 PM ET
Last Updated: Sep 5, 2012 5:25 PM ET

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2012/09/05/pol-fynes-hearing-mpcc-langridge.html

Shaun Fynes and his wife Sheila, parents of Cpl. Stuart Langridge, a soldier who killed himself in 2008, listen to testimony at a Public Interest Hearing at the Miliitary Police Commssion in March. Shaun Fynes was testifying at the hearing Wedneday. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press

A Military Police Complaints Commission has resumed its hearings Wednesday into allegations that the military mishandled its investigation into the death Cpl. Stuart Langridge.

Langridge hanged himself at CFB Edmonton in 2008 after several suicide attempts. Sheila and Shaun Fynes, his mother and stepfather, claim he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder due to his experiences on duty in Bosnia and Afghanistan.

The Fynes have complained that the military's investigation was biased and inadequate. They also say that the military erred in designating Langridge's next of kin and that it didn't disclose Langridge's suicide note for 14 months.

Shaun Fynes is on the witness stand Wednesday. Fynes, a former Toronto police officer and former Mountie, is chief of security and risk management for the B.C. government.

Fynes says he had a close bond with his stepson and encouraged him to join the military, and accused the military of killing his son in testimony that was often emotional and angry.

Read Leslie MacKinnon's live blog of Wednesday's testimony below.

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Shaun Fynes says he is here to "speak the truth". He is here first as Stuart's father he says, second as one versed in policing.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 5:47:06 PM 1:47 PM

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Stuart he says joined cadets at age 12. Later Fynes encouraged him to join reserves at age 17. They had a close bond, he says.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 5:47:08 PM 1:47 PM

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The last year of Stuart's life was an "anomaly". Fynes says he was blindsided by Stuart's 1st suicide attempt in 2007.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 5:47:08 PM 1:47 PM

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Fynes admits he thought the cocaine found in Stuart's blood after suicide attempt was just part of the suicide plan.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 5:47:10 PM 1:47 PM

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The Fynes believe that Stuart was self medicating, and npt addicted to drugs or alcohol.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 5:47:12 PM 1:47 PM

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Shaun Fynes' voice shakes at times, he's close to tears when remembering Stuart. He has a soft Irish? accent.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 5:47:13 PM 1:47 PM

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That last year, Stuart's life was a "slow speed train wreck". Stuart had to go round the military medical system to get help.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 5:47:15 PM 1:47 PM

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Stuart talked at times of leaving but Fynes says he loved the army. He and Sheila Fynes urged him not to throw it all away.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 5:47:16 PM 1:47 PM

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It is an affront Fynes says to suggest that Stuart fraudulently was seeking a medical discharge.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 5:47:17 PM 1:47 PM

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Fynes was informed by the military about Stuart's 1st suicide attempt - he didn't directly talk to Stuart about it.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 5:47:18 PM 1:47 PM

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But later on the phone he told Stuart he was a soldier, he'd been tested before, that the bad time would pass.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 5:47:24 PM 1:47 PM

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Fynes keeps stressing that Stuart loved being a soldier, that he couldn't bear the thought of failing as a soldier.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 5:47:25 PM 1:47 PM

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Fynes knows that during the 4 wks at the Alberta (mental) hospital Stuart was able to get cocaine.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 5:47:26 PM 1:47 PM

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Shaun Fynes says PTSD is mentioned several times in his medical files. Fynes says there must be a "threshold event".
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 5:47:27 PM 1:47 PM

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Fynes says Stuart wd't admit to a threshold event, until his time in Alberta hospital.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 5:47:28 PM 1:47 PM

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In hospital, Stuart realized the trigger was Bosnia and Afghanistan, but as a soldier he felt he couldn't talk about that.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 5:47:54 PM 1:47 PM

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Shaun Fynes says Stuart has been vilified - it's like blaming the rape victim. And no-one cared until he was dead.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 5:47:58 PM 1:47 PM

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I can't change the world says Shaun Fynes but I can do this, I can speak for Stuart so this doesn't happen to others.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 5:47:59 PM 1:47 PM

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Not til the military Board of Inquiry did the Fynes discover that Stuart had tried to kill himself 5 or 6 times.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 5:48:01 PM 1:48 PM

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But they knew of some suicide attempts. Stuart tried while in the Royal Alex hospital. They cdn't believe he was then discharged.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 5:48:02 PM 1:48 PM

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Fynes says that once back at the base, Stuart had a kind of seizure in the parking lot, his eyes rolled back.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 5:48:08 PM 1:48 PM

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Shaun Fynes believes that Stuart was under a suicide watch at the base, though the military denies this.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 5:48:09 PM 1:48 PM

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Fynes believes Stuart might have been "torqued right up" in barracks so he would break, and then military could fire him. Fynes is angry.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 5:48:10 PM 1:48 PM

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Fynes says Stuart was entitled to medical treatment he didn't get. His voice rises:"Stuart was killed by the military ".
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 5:48:12 PM 1:48 PM

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Fynes says Stuart's abandonment was negligence, that a Cdn vet shd't be treated this way. "It's disgusting what was done to my son. "
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 5:48:13 PM 1:48 PM

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DOJ lawyer Elizabeth Richard objects to Bd of Inquiry mention by Shaun Fynes. The MPCC by law cannot use evidence from an inquiry.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 5:48:13 PM 1:48 PM

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Sorry, that should be Department of Justice lawyer Elizabeth Richards. The Chair cautions Fynes about referencing BOI testimony.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 5:48:16 PM 1:48 PM
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Shaun Fynes says officially the military was unaware of Stuart's suicide attempts. But unofficially he says they did know.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 5:48:16 PM 1:48 PM
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Shaun Fynes says Stuart's suicide note said "I can't stand the pain anymore." Not, I want a drink, or a fix, or I miss my ex girlfriend.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 5:48:17 PM 1:48 PM
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But MPCC lawyer points out that when Stuart died he had more than a trace amount of cocaine in his blood.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 5:48:19 PM 1:48 PM
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Shaun Fynes holds that his son died of PTSD, and nothing else.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 5:48:23 PM 1:48 PM
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Shaun Fynes through tears relates the call from the military about Stuart's death. "My wife shrieked 'I told them this would happen. '"
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 5:48:24 PM 1:48 PM
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A huge issue has been why the military decided Stuart's ex girlfriend was primary next of kin. It was she who made the funeral arrangement
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 5:48:25 PM 1:48 PM
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But Shaun Fynes says it's the executor who decides on funeral arrangements. He was executor and in fact also primary next of kin.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 5:48:26 PM 1:48 PM
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It is a source of bitterness for the Fynes that they feel they were cut out of most of the funeral arrangements.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 5:48:28 PM 1:48 PM
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Shaun Fynes says Stuart's funeral was surreal: "I had to walk by my son's casket on his 29th birthday ".
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 5:48:29 PM 1:48 PM
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Photo of Shaun Fynes, Cpl. Stuart Langridge's stepfather at Military Police Complaints Commission.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 5:48:30 PM 1:48 PM
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The subject now is Langridge's will. The military found his first will dated 2002. An old friend David Whyte was named executor.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 5:48:31 PM 1:48 PM
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At that time Langridge's ex girlfriend was acting as next of kin and she directed Langridge's funeral.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 5:48:31 PM 1:48 PM
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Three months later a 2nd will was found naming Shaun Fynes as executor. He wishes he'd know earlier.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 5:48:34 PM 1:48 PM
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Langridge's death certificate was full of errors - it cost the Fynes $12,000 to have it changed -another grievance.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 5:49:06 PM 1:49 PM
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In October, 6 mos after the death, the military informed Fynes that he was the true next of kin. Insult after injury, Fynes says.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 5:51:16 PM 1:51 PM
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The miliary held a Bd of Inquiry into Langridge's death. We had great hopes of it going in, says Fynes; by the end we were crying foul.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 5:56:53 PM 1:56 PM
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During the Bd of Inquiry the Fynes got a letter saying they might have to pay for storage of Stuart's things which the military had seized.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 6:07:09 PM 2:07 PM
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The letter was an affront, says Fynes.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 6:07:37 PM 2:07 PM
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Another issue: certain things among Stuart's effects had gone missing: his special chair, a cherished Samurai sword.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 6:13:42 PM 2:13 PM
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Langridge's effects were to be shipped to Fynes but he had to be in Victoria to take delivery - except he was in Edmonton for the Inquiry.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 6:17:35 PM 2:17 PM
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There were many "Catch 22s" like this, Fynes implies.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 6:18:43 PM 2:18 PM
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Again Fynes uses the word "disgusting": these were a dead veteran's last wishes, his personal effects. They shd be treated with respect.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 6:21:46 PM 2:21 PM
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Back to the death certificate. It took 20 months to fix it says Fyness:"It was an extreme aggravation. "
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 6:30:25 PM 2:30 PM
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Had Fynes been the executor from the beginning, as he should have been,these errors would never have occurred, he says.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 6:31:50 PM 2:31 PM
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It seems to be some compensation Fynes is suggesting for the military naming Langridge's estranged girlfriend as next of kin at first.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 7:00:29 PM 3:00 PM
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Our son should not be dead. No-one's been accountable. There's been an attempt to blame the victim, Fynes says, his anger rising.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 7:03:14 PM 3:03 PM
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The treatment of the body:Allegation is the body was not cut down quickly.He was left to hang in the room says Fynes for hours.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 7:06:26 PM 3:06 PM
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Fynes reports that two findings of fact have been removed from the military investigation's conclusion: one, that alcoholism was to blame.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 7:34:21 PM 3:34 PM
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They acted as if they were military first,police second says Fynes.They were worried about protecting the brand, and not being police first
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 7:40:34 PM 3:40 PM
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Fynes says he believes that if a CF member attempts suicide, there shd be an investigation. And there shd be suicide prevention policies.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 7:43:49 PM 3:43 PM
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But there wasn't, and that's negligence says Fynes, negligence causing death.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 7:44:44 PM 3:44 PM
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Fynes says the military finished its investigation in 3 mos but hung on to Stuart's possessions - his Bible, his AA pamphlets. Why he asks.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 8:01:00 PM 4:01 PM
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Fynes concludes for today: you have a sick soldier and have undertaken responsibility for his care and he ends up dead.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 8:32:14 PM 4:32 PM
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Shaun Fynes is back on the stand tomorrow at the MPCC, starting at 9am.
by LeslieMacKinnon via twitter 9/5/2012 8:33:03 PM 4:33 PM

Canadian_Vet:
Soldier who committed suicide was 'killed' by the military: stepfather

The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, Sep. 5, 2012 1:45PM EDT

http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/soldier-who-committed-suicide-was-killed-by-the-military-stepfather-1.943569


Shaun Fynes and his wife Sheila, parents of Cpl. Stuart Langridge, a soldier who killed himself in 2008, listen to testimony at a Public Interest Hearing at the Miliitary Police Commssion in Ottawa, Tuesday, March 27, 2012. (Fred Chartrand / THE CANADIAN PRESS_

OTTAWA -- A Canadian Forces soldier who took his own life "ping-ponged" between a civilian medical system that didn't want to deal with him and a military system that didn't know what to do with him, his grieving stepfather told an inquiry Wednesday.

The often emotional, heart-rending testimony from Shaun Fynes about the troubled last years and death of Cpl. Stuart Langridge was at once an ardent defence of the young man's character and an angry indictment of the Canadian military.

"Stuart didn't fall between the cracks, he was stuffed between the cracks," Fynes told the Military Police Complaints Commission, which is holding a hearing into allegations that the investigation into Langridge's suicide was biased.

"He ricocheted through the system and ping-ponged between provincial hospitals that didn't want anything to do with him, and the medical unit that didn't know what to do with him," Fynes testified.

"They couldn't figure out who was co-ordinating his care and who was responsible for his care. Stuart didn't stand a chance. He was killed by the military."

The commission's inquiry, which began last spring and resumed Wednesday after a summer hiatus, had previous heard testimony about Langridge's spiral into a haze of alcohol and drugs following tours in Bosnia and Afghanistan.

Fynes acknowledged the young soldier's fight with alcohol, but testified that it was "self-medication" for the depression and post-traumatic stress he suffered while overseas.

The military disputes the PTSD claim and has essentially laid the blame for the suicide on the drug problems of Langridge -- who had previously tried to take his own life -- and what it described as a tumultuous personal life.

The commission has heard that Langridge, almost a year before his death, sought a medical discharge. In the weeks leading up to his suicide, he checked himself into civilian mental health care in Edmonton.

But he was persuaded to return to the garrison, where he was not placed in a military hospital, but in barracks where he eventually killed himself.

The military has presented a jumble of conflicting statements about whether he was placed on suicide watch, but the commission has heard from a witness who would describe it only as a "watch."

Military police interviews with the regimental sergeant-major, who is responsible for ensuring discipline within a unit, revealed that conditions were placed on Langridge, who was told he would get access to a bevy of treatment options within the military system provided his conduct remained good.

Fynes said he believes the military was trying to build a case for dismissal against a soldier who up until that point had never been in trouble.

"My son was a soldier who was injured, and he was punished and disciplined for the symptoms of that injury," he testified.

"He had self-confessed to those issues. He had asked for help. He was absolutely participating in attempts to improve his own care."

An autopsy found no alcohol in his system at the time of Langridge's death, but it did find a measurable quantity of cocaine.

His stepfather said that finding should not distract from the central issue, which he considers the failure of the military to properly take care of its own.

"Stuart was a veteran. He was an injured veteran," Fynes said. "He was entitled to medical treatment that he didn't get."

Canadian_Vet:
The military killed my son, Langridge’s father tells inquiry

Read more: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/military+killed+Langridge+father+tells+inquiry/7196219/story.html#ixzz25egWBGTY

Often on the verge of tears Wednesday, former police officer Shaun Fynes told a federal inquiry into the 2008 death of his stepson, Cpl. Stuart Langridge, that the army had humiliated and neglected his son.
Photograph by: JULIE OLIVER , OTTAWA CITIZEN

OTTAWA — The father of an Afghan veteran who killed himself after a long struggle with mental illness lashed out at his son’s army bosses Wednesday.

Choking back emotion, and often on the verge of tears, former police officer Shaun Fynes told a federal inquiry into the 2008 death of his stepson, Cpl. Stuart Langridge, that the army had humiliated and neglected his son.

“It was disgusting what they did to my son,” he said. “He was killed by the military.”

Langridge hanged himself in March 2008 after several suicide attempts and after a long struggle with alcohol and drugs.

“Our son died because of untreated PTSD,” said Fynes, a seasoned investigator who now heads security for the B.C. government.

“This is not the way a Canadian veteran should be treated,” he added. “He was an injured veteran who deserved treatment he didn’t get. He didn’t fall between the cracks, he was stuffed between the cracks.”

The military claim 28-year-old Langridge was an alcoholic and drug abuser. That, not PTSD, was at the root of his problem, they say.

Fynes was testifying at the Military Police Complaints Commission which is hearing a litany of complaints about the investigation into Langridge’s suicide.

Fynes and his wife, Sheila, say detectives in the military’s National Investigation Service (NIS) were biased and deliberately “glossed over” evidence that would have reflected badly on the military.

“They spent more time protecting the brand than they did investigating,” said Fynes, who questioned whether the NIS officers were “military first and police second.”

Rather than conducting an open-minded investigation, he claimed, the military police detectives constructed a scenario that blamed Langridge for his own death.

“Our son should not be dead and nobody has been made accountable for that,”added Fynes. “(Instead) there has been an incredible effort to blame the victim and exonerate the military.”

Langridge’s superiors at CFB Edmonton ordered the soldier back to base after he had finished a month’s mental health treatment and immediately ordered him to work doing largely menial tasks such as polishing silverware and shovelling snow.

He killed himself shortly after.

The Fynes say their son wanted more help for his illness but he was denied.

“His treatment was abusive and disgusting,” he said. “He wanted to get back to being a good soldier. Stuart wasn’t just a soldier, he loved the army. It was who he was.”

Fynes slammed the military’s attitude toward PTSD and said his son had tried to hide his mental illness because he knew it would damage his career.

“It was a slow speed train wreck,” he said. “He was struggling with PTSD. He was a poster boy for PTSD. He was in such despair.”

The family is also angry at the way Langridge’s body was left hanging for more than four hours while police examined his room and its contents.

“Stuart was hanging in the doorway,” said Fynes. “He should have been cut down immediately and shown some respect. He should not have hung in a corner like a piece of meat.”

Fynes began his testimony reiterating that neither he nor his wife is seeking financial compensation from the federal government.

“I can’t change the world,” he said, “but I can change this for Stuart and for other people’s sons and daughters.”

The inquiry continues Thursday.

ccobb@ottawacitizen.com

twitter.com/chrisicobb
© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

Canadian_Vet:
Withholding soldier's suicide note for 14 months sign of coverup: stepfather

By: Murray Brewster, The Canadian Press

Posted: 9:16 AM | Comments: 3 | Last Modified: 3:07 PM

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/canada/withholding-soldiers-suicide-note-for-14-months-sign-of-cover-up-stepfather-168762156.html

OTTAWA - A Canadian soldier's suicide note was withheld from his parents for 14 months by military police in what Cpl. Stuart Langridge's stepfather calls a calculated deception.

Shaun Fynes, in his second day of testimony before a public inquiry, said he believes his son's last communication was kept back to protect the military.

"My son had (post-traumatic stress disorder), he was in pain and he couldn't take it anymore," Fynes testified Thursday. "That was the truth of that note and that was part of the coverup."

The Canadian Forces National Investigative Service says it held on to the note because it was evidence in an ongoing investigation.

It acknowledges 14 months does not represent "expeditious" handling of the note, but has never explained why it needed to keep it beyond the first few days of the investigation.

"I am left to conclude it was not inept and it was a very calculated deception designed to protect the uniform from embarrassment," Fynes said.

The family has never received a formal apology regarding the note, although the military has conceded it was wrong to withhold it.

Fynes says when the family did finally receive the note, it was a photocopy, and they had to demand the original.

The Military Police Complaints Commission is examining whether the military investigation into Langridge's March 2008 death was biased.

At one point, as the family searched for answers, the military investigators refused to meet Fynes because they anticipated he might take legal action.

"It speaks to an attempt to protect the image and the brand," Fynes said. "It doesn't speak to police work — or my understanding of police work, or the independence of police work to conduct a fair and impartial investigation."

The family had not threatened to sue over the death, but had filed a statement of claim to recover money they felt was owed to their son's estate, Fynes added.

That claim was dropped.

Justice Department lawyer Elizabeth Richards challenged the notion that military covered up the suicide in order to avoid embarrassment, pointing to its role in catching serial killer Russell Williams, a former air force colonel.

"So you agree there are incidents and circumstances where military police do investigate senior leadership within the Canadian Forces and do lay charges?" she asked.

"And you're aware the National Investigative Service has been involved in (investigating) alleged drug use by members of the Canadian Forces?"

"I'd certainly hope so," Fynes answered.

"And that's something in fact you wanted investigated, and you'd agree with me that's something that might be embarrassing," Richards continued.

Langridge struggled with alcohol and drug addiction during the last few years of his life following tours of duty in Bosnia and Afghanistan.

He had five — possibly six — previous suicide attempts.

The military disputes the claim the 28-year-old veteran suffered from post-traumatic stress and blames his suicide on addictions and turmoil in his personal life.

The lawyer for the commission said it's been unable to find any medical report that indicates "a primary diagnosis" of PTSD, although some of the records suggest Langridge should have been examined further for the condition.

Richards pointed to medical records from several institutions which stated that Langridge suffered an alcohol-induced mood disorder, as well as alcohol and cocaine dependency.

"I suggest to you that in all the medical records, the medical professionals considered that the substance abuse was the illness," she said.

She also noted one report that said Langridge, while in civilian rehab, smuggled cocaine into the hospital.

"I will go to my grave believing my son suffered with PTSD because his behaviour changed so markedly," said Fynes.

Michel Drapeau, the lawyer for the parents, said regardless of whether there was a formal diagnosis of PTSD, the medical records show a young man in distress and they only underline that the military had an obligation to care for him.

The actions of the military in the days leading up to the death were put under the microscope with Fynes' testimony.

Prior to hanging himself in a barracks room, Langridge had spent 30 days in a civilian hospital, but was persuaded to return to the Edmonton garrison upon completion of his stay.

Fynes said his son expected to be admitted to a military hospital or treatment program, but instead found himself placed in barracks and treated as a "defaulter."

The military admits to placing Langridge on restrictions, which included menial tasks, such as shovelling snow.

His regimental sergeant-major told military police investigators that the young man was being given an opportunity to prove his worth as a soldier, according to transcripts already filed with the commission.

But Fynes said it "humiliated" the young man before his regiment — something that ultimately drove him to take his life.

The family demanded military police conduct a criminal negligence investigation, which did not happen.

At the end of Fynes' testimony, commission chair Glenn Stannard addressed both parents, reminding them that the watchdog agency doesn't have the jurisdiction to comment on what sort of medical treatment Langridge should — or should not — have received.

He expressed sympathy for their plight.

"We're here to rule on whether the military conducted a proper investigation," said Stannard.

"There are some of those issues that are in your heart and are upfront that you may not hear from us, but it's not because we don't care."

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