Military will publish response to suicide probe — (Toronto Star)

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Toronto Star

7 Mar 2015

BRUCE CAMPION-SMITH OTTAWA BUREAU CHIEF

In backtracking move, officials say report was never meant to be kept secret

With a court battle brewing, the military said it would lift the report’s secret designation

OTTAWA— The military has reversed course and says it will now allow its response to the investigation into a solder’s suicide to be made public.

Col. Rob Delaney, commander of the military police, said in a statement that it was never the intention of the Canadian Armed Forces to keep its response secret.

Instead, he said the military police designated its reply to an independent report as secret in order to “safeguard” discussions about an interim report and the department’s formal response.

“I feel it is important to clarify the concerns of secrecy,” Delaney, who also serves as Provost Marshal, said in a statement issued Friday.

At issue is the investigation into the death of Cpl. Stuart Langridge, an Afghanistan war veteran who took his life in 2008.

The Military Police Complaints Commission, an independent body that oversees the military police, began its review of the case after complaints from his parents that the military investigation into the death was poorly handled.

After 60 days of hearings, the commission submitted an interim report to Delaney’s office on May 1, 2014 for comment.

Last December, the military delivered its “notice of action,” outlining its response to the report and whether the recommendations would be accepted.

However, that notice of action was designated as “Protected B,” which meant it could not be publicly released or even included in the commission’s final report to be released on Tuesday.

The commission has filed an application with the Federal Court seeking to overturn the department’s decision to keep that response under wraps.

Michel Drapeau, a lawyer for Langridge’s parents, had condemned the military secrecy as “absolutely outrageous.”

But in his statement, Delaney said he told the commission on Feb. 11 that he would remove the secret designation so it could “freely use and reference that information” in its final report.

“The Chair declined that offer,” Delaney said in his statement.

Yet the Federal Court filing suggests that the military would only remove the protected designation if the commission agreed to not publish its response.

The application for judicial review refers to a Feb. 11 decision “requiring the commission to agree not to publish the notice of action in the commission’s final report as a pre-condition for removing the ‘Protected B’ designation.”

With a court battle brewing and the military under fire, Delaney said Friday the military would lift the secret designation to resolve what he called the “apparent impasses.”

 

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Former partner describes soldier’s spiral into suicide — (CBC News)

By Leslie MacKinnon

Posted: May 10, 2012

For almost five hours, 28-year-old Rebecca Starr told an often emotional tale of Cpl. Stuart Langridge’s downward spiral into addiction, severe depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and finally suicide.

Starr, the former common law partner of Langridge, was appearing Thursday before the Military Police Complaints Commission, which is hearing complaints filed by Langridge’s parents into how the military handled their son’s death.

Starr testified about what kind of person Langridge was in 2005 when she met him: “Stuart loved to have fun, he was a happy guy, he had tons of friends.”

Rebecca Starr, former partner of Cpl. Stuart Langridge, appears before a Military Police Complaints Commission hearing into his suicide, in Ottawa. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

They moved in with each other within months, and eventually made a formal declaration to the military that they were common-law partners.

But, Starr related, Langridge began to profoundly change, especially after his biological father died.

Langridge began to drink heavily, she said, and she later discovered that he was buying cocaine on a regular basis. He would go on to attempt suicide six times before he finally succeeded.

In tears, she spoke of how his friends found him still alive in his Jeep with the exhaust pipe hooked into the window. Once she came home and found him almost unconscious in bed after he’d swallowed two bottles of his medications.

She described a frightening scene of entering the townhouse they had shared and finding knives and a half-filled bathtub in a bathroom, and nooses hanging from the rafters in the basement.

Starr also talked about a series of symptoms Langridge was experiencing: chest pains, profuse sweating, night terrors in which he’d wake up suddenly, “being afraid and being angry and not remembering where he was.” Among other things, these are signs of possible post traumatic stress syndrome.

Langridge’s mother and step-father, Sheila and Shaun Fynes, say their son was suffering from PTSD due to his experiences in Bosnia and Afghanistan, and that the military ignored his illness. The military contends that Langridge was an alcoholic and a drug addict who was depressed — and that it did all it could to help him.

Cpl. Stuart Langridge, a veteran of Bosnia and Afghanistan missions, hanged himself in his Edmonton barracks in 2008. (Courtesy Sheila Fynes)

This week at the MPCC hearing a senior military officer who aided the Fynes after their son’s death, testified that he was told that Langridge, who’d been ordered to live in barracks, was on a suicide watch. Today, Rebecca Starr said she too been assured by the military that Langridge would be taken care of: “It was my understanding that after talking to the addiction counsellors that he would be with someone 24 hours a day.”

But Langridge hanged himself in his room in the barracks at the base in Edmonton where he was supposed to be under close supervision.  A lawyer representing the military police said it would have been a medical decision to put him on suicide watch, and that the military are not doctors.

One of the most contentious issues for Shaun and Sheila Fynes is that Rebecca Starr was designated Langridge’s next of kin and that she made all the decisions about his funeral. The Fynes and other witnesses have testified that Langridge and Starr had broken up. And an earlier military inquiry into Langride’s death concluded that his suicide was a result of the split with his girlfriend.

Today, Starr insisted she and Langridge had every intention of spending their lives together, despite the fact that she had moved out of the townhouse she and Langridge shared, and that she asked him to remove her name from the ownership of their Jeep.

The MPCC hearing into Langridge’s death is expected to hear witnesses until some time in June.

 

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Military Police Complaints Commission

FYNES PUBLIC INTEREST HEARINGS

held pursuant to section 250.38(1) of the National Defence Act, in the matter of file 2011‑004

TRANSCRIPT OF PROCEEDINGS

held at 270 Albert St., Ottawa, Ontario, on Wednesday, April 4, 2012

 

APPEARANCES:

Mr. Mark Freiman                                                             Commission counsel

 

Chairperson:  Good morning, Dr. Yaltho.

I understand, sir, that you are a physician licensed to practice in the province of Alberta, and you are currently employed ‑‑ or you were employed in 2008 at the Royal Alexandra Hospital; is that correct

A: Yes

Q:  Thank you very much, sir.  Now, we are going to discuss this morning with you a relatively brief experience you had and professional encounter you had with Corporal Stuart Langridge.  In order to set the scene, I would like to ask you to describe what your duties were in March of 2008 in terms of whom you would see in the hospital for psychiatric consultations

A:  I was the doctor on call for psychiatry on March 11, 2008, and this patient was brought to the emergency department by the military police, I believe.

Q:  I’d like to ask you to look at the book that is at your left‑hand side. There is [sic] a number of documents in there. And if you could open the document book to Tab 16, you will see a clinical consultation report, it’s more by way of a request to see a soldier.

Is this a document that would have been brought to your attention when you were called to see Corporal Langridge?

A:   Yes.

Q:  Okay, so let me just read what the note says:  “Please see this 28‑year‑old‑male who has a history of alcohol and drug abuse and depression.  Multiple attempts for substance abuse treatment attempted; i.e., Edgewood, and patient was non‑compliant. Discharged from Alberta Hospital on March 3, 2008, under care of Dr. Sowa.  Now is heavily under restrictions imposed and stay in his military unit and monitor his actions for next couple of weeks.  Is not coping well with this anxiety, poor sleep, and trying to deal his way out of the circumstance.    “This member was informed today that he must return to his unit and continue to work and see how he does, and if is doing okay, return to his unit and abstaining, the consideration of a treatment program in Guelph, Ontario, Homewood, would be considered.   “Upon realizing he would be forced to return to his unit today, he states he is suicidal and would rather kill himself than return to his unit.”

BY MR. FREIMAN

Q:  Now, can you read to us the “on examination”, which is your impressions after you’ve compiled the history ‑‑ maybe it would be helpful if you just read us the note because it’s a little hard to read the handwriting.

A:  So you are talking about the middle section?

Q:  Let’s do the whole note. It’s only a page, so we can afford to do that.

A:   Dated March 11, ’08:   “28‑year‑old military serviceman recently separated from his wife, brought to the emergency for depression, anxiety, PTSD and suicidal thoughts.  ‘Can’t take Army stuff anymore’.  He complained of crying spells, chest pain, nightmares, sweating, decreased sleep and memory and decreased energy.  Although he was a heavy alcoholic, he drinks seldom now.  But indulges in cocaine, last time yesterday, and cannabis.  He had a previous admission ‑‑”[as read –  I think that says two or three.

“‑‑ he had previous admissions in RAH and was discharged from the Alberta Hospital last Friday by Dr. Sowa. He did not attend the AA meeting and had two drinks yesterday.  His medications are:  Venlafaxine, 225 milligrams; gabapentin, 600 milligrams at bedtime; Quetiapine, 50 milligrams at bedtime; Zopiclone, 7.5 milligrams at bedtime; olanzapine, 2.5 milligrams in the morning and 5 milligrams at bedtime.  Says gabapentin helps him with sweating, and he has been complying with the medications.

“His common‑law wife, a secretary, left him when he was hospitalized in February.  He was in Afghanistan for six months in 2004 and in Bosnia in 2001.  His elder brother is handicapped.  Mom is on gabapentin.  “On examination, a young Caucasian male in Army uniform being watched by a serviceman.  Depressed, anxious and suicidal.