Mother’s relief at coroner’s findings

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The mother of a Warsop war veteran has said a coroner’s findings in relation to the events surrounding her late son’s death were more than she could ever have hoped for.

Lee Bonsall (24) was found hanged by his wife in their family home in Tenby, Pembrokeshire, in March 2012.

Karen Bonsall, Lee’s mum, and the rest of his family all believed he had been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder at the time and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) failed to help him sufficiently.

Now a Pembrokeshire coroner has established a direct, causal link between Pte Bonsall’s tour of duty in Afghanistan and the mental health problems he suffered afterwards.

The coroner has also made several recommendations to government ministers to try and prevent something similar happening to other veterans in future.

Said Karen: “I feel that all the hard work has finally paid off because we have got the result we wanted.

“We have proved he was a good soldier and did his best until his best friend died. It has all been proven and the recommendations are exactly what we wanted.”

Lee’s family has always maintained that the death his close friend Pte Andrew Cutts, of Blidworth, who he served alongside in northern Helmand province, left him deeply troubled at time.

Now this has been confirmed by coroner Mark Layton, who recorded a narrative verdict, as he was ‘unable to say beyond reasonable doubt’ that his death could be recorded as a suicide.

Summing up his conclusions, Mr Layton pointed out that it took almost a year after Lee’s initial psychiatric assessment in October 2006 by for him to be discharged from the Army.

His statement reads: “The psychiatrist recommended sick leave pending discharge but this was not done until July 2007 after an attempt at self-harm.”

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.

Alongside this he will ask the Army to review its practice for passing medical records to civilian surgeries and petition the Minister for Health over the practice of allowing repeat prescriptions for antidepressant drug citalopram.

Pte Bonsall was taking the drug prior to his death.

Lee’s death in March 2012 was followed just one week later by that of Ashley Clarkson, a Mansfield ex-Royal Logistic Corps private, in very similar circumstances.

This sparked a campaign by the solders’ families to see military servicemen suffering with post-traumatic stress given more help by the MoD.

“I feel better than I thought I would,” said Karen. “But for me it is not over.

“We have to make sure they follow through with the coroner’s recommendations. Until I can see for myself that they have acted I will keep campaigning.”