Leeds soldier was planning to come home for Christmas and spend New Year in Paris, inquest told

Lance Corporal James Ross whose inquest, along with Rifleman Darren Mitchell, takes place in Ballymena, Co Antrim
Lance Corporal James Ross whose inquest, along with Rifleman Darren Mitchell, takes place in Ballymena, Co Antrim
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The mother of a young soldier who died at an Army base in Co Down has said he had been making plans to come home for a late Christmas and spend New Year's Eve in Paris with his girlfriend.

Lance Corporal James Ross, 30, from Leeds, who served in Afghanistan, was found hanged at Abercorn Army base in Ballykinler on December 8 2012.

His mother Linda Ketcher told an inquest into his death, and the death of Rifleman Darren Mitchell, 20, from London who also died from suspected suicide three months later, that he had cancelled leave for Christmas to allow others with families and children to get it instead, and allow him to catch up with admin.

But she said he told her to keep his presents under the tree so they could celebrate a late Christmas together.

She also told the inquest that her son found Ballykinler to be a cold and isolated place, so he kept himself busy by keeping fit and taking a number of courses.

But she said he was happy in his career and very pleased at his recent promotion to Lance Corporal.

"He found a career that he loved and was progressing well at it," she said.

Mrs Ketcher also told the inquest she believed she was prevented from speaking to her son's Army friends by more senior people from the Army.

She said that, during her son's funeral, whenever one of his friends came over to speak to her, they were interrupted.

"A few of them (his friends from the Army) were visibly upset," she told the inquest.

"If any of the guys who served with him (came to speak to me), within minutes, there would be someone ushering them away from me.

"It just felt really odd that I could not have a conversation of any kind with his friends from his regiment."

Mrs Ketcher said she does not believe it is acceptable that young men who had served with the Army in Afghanistan were sent to isolated barracks such as Ballykinler.

She said James was "gutted" to be posted to Ballykinler after his second tour of Afghanistan from October 2011 to April 2012.

Mrs Ketcher said her son confided in her about some incidents which upset him.

"An Afghan man came running towards him carrying something in a blanket," she told the inquest. "As he approached the man opened the blanket, a little girl was in there who was badly injured."

She described how he tried to help the child before alerting the medics to help her. She said he found that incident very distressing and it stayed with him.

James' sister Helen Thomas also gave evidence to say he was disturbed by the incident with the little girl as she had reminded him of his niece and nephew.

Mrs Ketcher also questioned why there were two incidents where young men appeared to take their own lives within three months at Ballykinler.

"We are asking is there adequate care there?" she said.