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Family battles military over son?s suicide
« on: March 31, 2012, 12:38:52 PM »
Family battles military over son?s suicide

The image Sheila Fynes thinks about each night before going to bed is that of the lifeless body of her son hanging from a chin-up bar at a military barracks in Edmonton.

It?s also the first thing she thinks about when she wakes up.

Her son, Cpl. Stuart Langridge, a model soldier and veteran of Bosnia and Afghanistan, was suffering from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder when he killed himself at CFB Edmonton in 2008.

Since then his family has been battling the Canadian Forces, trying to get details of the case while fighting off what they allege is a military campaign to smear their son?s name.

In the latest development, the Ottawa-based Military Police Complaints Commission has now opened an investigation into how the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service, or NIS, handled the case.

?The NIS left my son hanging there for almost three hours before taking him down,? says Fynes of Victoria, B.C.

?Their actions were unbelievable.?

The NIS investigation into the soldiers death concluded that ?Cpl. Langridge suffered from alcohol and cocaine addiction which caused him to have mental health issues.?

The NIS also concluded the military, in particular his unit, Lord Strathcona?s Horse, tried on several occasions to help him deal with his problems.

But Langridge?s father, Shaun Fynes, says the investigation is nothing more than an attempt to absolve military commanders of any responsibility in the death.

He points out the drug and alcohol abuse started after his son began suffering from depression and mental health problems following his missions overseas.

What is largely missing from the NIS report, however, is the role the military played in the suicide and how its actions contributed to the tragedy by failing to take seriously the soldier?s PTSD symptoms, Shaun Fynes said.

Military staff, aware that Langridge had tried to kill himself on at least six occasions, were criminally negligent because of their actions, the family argues.

Shortly before his took his own life, Langridge had checked himself into a psychiatric facility and despite his request he continue to stay there, was told by the military to return to his unit. There he was assigned to the ?defaulter?s room,? the area where soldiers usually go to be punished, although a Canadian Forces spokesman has noted Langridge was not being disciplined.

?Sleeping in the defaulter?s room and reporting to the duty desk personnel every two hours does not qualify as medical care,? Shaun Fynes has pointed out.

The family alleges such treatment by the unit humiliated Langridge, worsening his condition.

Hospital records obtained by the family and reviewed by the Citizen confirm the soldier had been suffering from depression, PTSD and thoughts of suicide. Langridge had made the comment he would rather kill himself than return to his unit.

Since Langridge?s death, his family says they have faced numerous roadblocks trying to get details about what happened.

In a highly unusual move, Sheila Fynes, was informed last year through a legal letter from the government she was not to have contact with members of the Defence Department or the Canadian Forces as she tried to settle her son?s estate.

In response, in October she flew to Ottawa and held a press conference on Parliament Hill to discuss the militarys treatment of her family.

Fynes raised a series of issues including how paperwork naming Shaun as the executor of the estate was eventually found behind a filing cabinet at CFB Edmonton, but in the meantime the military had allowed another person to assume that role.

Documents clearly naming Sheila and Shaun as primary and secondary next of kin were ignored by the Canadian Forces, who instead turned to his girlfriend of 14 months for that role.

The NIS also withheld Langridge?s suicide note from his family for almost 15 months. The family considers the NIS?s decision not to disclose the existence of the note as not only unprofessional but callous.

An officer assigned to help Sheila and Shaun also acknowledged in an e-mail the family had been deceived, misled, and intentionally marginalized (at) various points by DND and the Canadian Forces.

A military spokesman originally said an investigation had been launched in how Langridge?s records were handled. There were things that clearly happened the way we would not want them to happen, acknowledged Maj. Dave Muralt.

But the military has since taken a different view.

Various investigations were conducted. But the NIS has stated it was not able to establish reasonable and probable grounds that any member of the Canadian Forces had committed any offence in the case.

In November, Chief of the Defence Staff Walter Natynczyk noted he had apologized to Sheila Fynes for the legal letter indicating she was not to talk to military personnel. But he pointed out he wasn?t apologizing for how Langridge was treated.

?Cpl. Langridge received sound medical care from the best our provincial and military medical systems can provide,? Natynczyk stated. ?Sadly, despite the efforts of many assisting health-care professionals, his close friends, and the leaders of his Regiment, it was not enough.?

Military officers say they are prevented by federal privacy laws from making public the full details of the case. But privately they suggest Langridge had a difficult relationship with his parents and had insisted that in the event of an emergency, his family not be involved.

That?s news to Shaun and Sheila who easily produce their son?s military forms in which he names his father as primary next of kin and his mother as secondary next of kin. Sheila notes that right up to his death, she was with her son during various trips to hospitals.

In addition, the family points to the suicide note, which is written specifically to them. In it, the soldier apologized to his mother, Shaun, his brothers, aunt and grandmother, for committing suicide. ?Sorry but I can?t take it anymore. Please know that I needed to stop the pain,? he wrote, signing it ?love Stu.?

?P.S. I don?t deserve any kinda fancy funeral just family.?

?This is just another attempt by the military to smear us,? says Sheila of the claims by officers.

Asked for comment about the family?s complaints, the military issued the following: ?The Canadian Forces Provost Marshal, Commander of the Canadian Forces Military Police (CF MP) Group, is aware of the Military Police Complaints Commission?s (MPCC) intent to hold a public interest investigation into a complaint related to three investigations conducted by the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (CFNIS) with regards to Corporal Stuart Langridge.

?It would be inappropriate to comment at this time on the specifics of these files, as this information will soon be assessed by the MPCC; however this public interest investigation has the full cooperation of the CF MP Group,? the e-mail added.

?Currently, all relevant documents are being provided by the CFNIS to the MPCC for their review and consideration, and we look forward to further collaboration with the MPCC, who, in their aim to contribute to a climate of confidence in military policing in Canada, provide valuable civilian oversight of military police on behalf of Parliament.?

Sheila Fynes said the military did come through with one promise they made to the family; that was to present them with the sacrifice medal and memorial cross.

?It was a nice ceremony except the general kept referring to me as Sherry,? she explained. ?But after what weve been through I wasn?t surprised.?
? Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen
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