Widow's push for awareness after ex-Notts soldier's suicide — (Nottingham Post)

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Nottingham Post


FOR Serena Bonsall, there was never any reason to worry about what the future may hold.

The 24-year-old and her “incredible” husband Lee were looking forward to a trip to Tunisia in the summer and excited about the prospect of having children.

But on the evening of Saturday, March 3, Serena found  Lee hanged at their home in Tenby, South Wales.

Lee, 24, originally from Warsop, was an Army veteran who had served in Afghanistan.

He was there when his best friend, Private Andrew Cutts, from Blidworth, was killed in action in 2006, and his family believe he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, although he was never officially diagnosed.

Serena described her relationship with her husband as a “love story”, and talked of a man far from the image of a haunted soldier.

She said: “He was really lovely and caring and sunny, and a bit ditzy at times. We had everything to live for.

“We were selling our house and wouldn’t have any debt.

“We were also planning to have children – he was really broody and he wanted kids.

“We had a holiday booked in June to go to Tunisia, and we had friends coming down the next day.

“On the day I found him hanging. He had been in the most fantastic, beautiful mood before I went out to work, but then I found him when I came back – it just came completely out of the blue.”…

(Mary Fells, Ashley’s mum) is teaming up with Lee’s mother Karen Bonsall, of Warsop, to push for more awareness of the difficulties soldiers face after leaving the Army.

Mrs Bonsall, 50, said: “I’m not looking for anything to replace Lee – he’s gone. All I’m looking to do is make people aware about veterans’ mental health. I feel it’s my duty to try and help to do something about it, and help these soldiers that are going to be coming back.

“This is the last thing I want to be doing at the moment – it’s such a difficult time.”

She said Lee had not been helped in his time of need.

She said: “He had been to Afghanistan and his best friend had been killed.

“He came to see a GP who put him off sick, and the Army insisted he went back.

“He did that, and then he went AWOL.

“They put him in military prison for three weeks.

“He told them he would just keep running away, and ended up leaving.

“I was a naive mum at the time – I was just so happy he was out, I thought everything would be all right.”

Lee received an administrative discharge from the Army in 2007, and had most recently been working at a supermarket in Tenby.

Mrs Bonsall said she had noticed how troubled her son was.

She said: “He did some sort of strange things. He has got a photo of him and his friend who got killed holding a flag together.

“He would get the photo and he would cry and he would drink.

“His GP wasn’t aware he had been in the Army.

“He had no notes in his record at all about his service.”

She now wants to raise more awareness of the condition to stop other families suffering in the way her’s and Ashley’s have.

She said: “Mary and I have met with our local MP, Alan Meale, who said he is going to look into the issue.

“We would like to encourage more checks on veterans’ mental health, but at the moment we aren’t quite sure what form the campaign will take – I have a lot of research to do.”


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Coroner makes government recommendations after Bonsall inquest


January 30, 2014

A coroner has raised several matters with government ministers after hearing of the events leading up to the tragic death of Warsop war veteran Lee Bonsall.

Pte Bonsall (24) was found hanged by his wife in the home they shared together in March 2012.

His family believed he had been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, brought on by the death of a close friend while serving in northern Helmand province.

The Pembrokeshire coroner returned a narrative verdict as he was unsure Lee’s death could be recorded as a suicide.

He now plans to write to the Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans asking for the procedure for referring psychiatric cases to be reviewed.

The coroner will also petition the Minister for Health over the practice of allowing repeat prescriptions for antidepressant drug citalopram, which Pte Bonsall was taking.

He will also draw the minister’s attention to waiting times for psychotherapy.