Army criticised over ex-soldier’s hanging suicide

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ARMY top brass were criticised yesterday after an inquest heard how a former soldier killed himself after becoming depressed following his discharge from the military.

Father-of-one Matthew Parkin, 21, was found hanged in a wood near his home on August 1, 2010, seven months after he left the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards.

The inquest yesterday heard how Mr Parkin became “a completely different person” and his parents hit out at his former employers claiming they had “washed their hands of him”.

His father Ian, 49, told the hearing in Rotherham: “It was like he just switched – he was aggressive when he never had been before, he was tearful.

“Quite often he would be sobbing uncontrollably over arguments with his girlfriend – it just wasn’t like him.”

The inquest heard Mr Parkin had loved Army life up until his daughter Mia was born in April 2009, but he went AWOL after taking two weeks of paternity leave.

When he was arrested he cut his wrists, but then sent his mother a text message to say what had happened and was given treatment.

Mr Parkin’s father added: “He really enjoyed being in the Army, it was all he’d ever wanted to do and he signed up when he was just 16.

“But when Mia was born his priorities changed. He was due to go back to Afghanistan in the November and I think he couldn’t bear to be apart from her for a long time.”

Mr Parkin’s commanding officers agreed to relieve Mr Parkin of his duties as a private early in January 2010, in May that year he swallowed over 80 tablets but he called a friend and was saved.

The hearing was told that the week before he finally killed himself he was arrested on suspicion of assault while his ex-girlfriend said she may restrict access to his daughter.

The hearing also heard his former partner claimed the child may not have been his.

On July 28, Mr Parkin, of Thorpe Hesley, Rotherham, had been to an unsuccessful job interview, after which he returned home and a huge row erupted where his father had told him to “sort his life out”.

He left the house at around 11.30am – the last time his parents ever saw him. Later that week his body was found hanged from a tree.

Coroner Nicola Mundy, recording a verdict of suicide, said: “It seems to me that there were a number of problems. Clearly there had been relationship difficulties for quite some time.

“He clearly loved his young daughter and the prospect of only seeing her through social services was distressing.

“It also continued to disturb Matthew whether he was Mia’s father after a remark from his partner.

“He also had an argument with his family regarding the need to sort out his life.

“It’s my view that given all the problems in combination were just too much for Matthew to cope with and on this occasion he did wish to end his own life.”

After the inquest, his father said: “There was just absolutely no support for Matthew when he left the Army – it was like they saw him as a problem that once they discharged they could wash their hands of.

“The Army don’t look after their soldiers. They say they are one big family but when it comes down to it, the soldiers are just a number to them. There was no protection, no support - and look at the result.

“My wife thinks he was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. He was almost unrecognisable. It was no surprise he was struggling to cope with life outside of the army.

“He’s like so many young kids leaving the Army – they don’t know what to do with themselves. He had no job before the Army, so he didn’t know what to do when he came out.

“They should have sat him down and shown him job opportunities, helped him find a new career to help him adjust to civilian life.

“An Army psychiatrist saw him, so they knew what was going on. They knew he was troubled and needed help.”

Mr Parkin’s mother Janice added: “He was a brilliant dad – so hands on and just wanted to be with Mia. But he didn’t have a job, he had no prospects, he went from earning about £1,200 each month to nothing. Who wouldn’t be depressed?”

Following his death, a spokesman for the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards said: “On completion of his tour he, along with all his colleagues, conducted the recognised decompression, normalisation, and re-integration procedures required of troops coming home from Afghanistan.

“He was subsequently discharged from the army by mutual consent.”