Article Death of a Soldier


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Apr 2, 2017
A former paratrooper fell to his death from a hotel rooftop while waiting for a psychiatrist to decide whether he was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, an inquest heard yesterday.

Peter O'Sullivan, who had seen 'very severe military activity' in Afghanistan during ten years in the Parachute Regiment, had been assessed by a mental health nurse from the Combat Stress charity who felt he might have PTSD.

The nurse decided to refer him to a consultant psychiatrist - but there was a four month waiting list for an appointment and Mr O'Sullivan did not survive until then.

Two months before the appointment he took crystal meth while on holiday in Vietnam and fell to his death from the top of the Liberty Hotel in Ho Ch Minh City on Feb 13th this year, the Gloucester inquest was told.

His family, from Stroud, Gloucestershire, are now hoping the authorities will recognise Mr O'Sullivan's death as a direct consequence of PTSD resulting from his service in the elite Pathfinder platoon of the Parachute Regiment.

They want his name to be included at the National Memorial Arboretum - something which can only happen if his death is accepted to have resulted from his military service.

Mr O'Sullivan had served in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan and had trained for the SAS. It had left him with anxiety symptoms, the Gloucester inquest was told.

Last December he had sought help from Combat Stress and was seen by nurse Ian Coombs, who assessed him and found him to be at high risk of self harm or suicide.

He referred him to a psychiatrist because he believed he may well have PTSD but there were no appointments available for four months.

Faced with the wait, Mr O'Sullivan decided to return to Iraq to do a two month stint as a close protection officer.

From there he returned briefly to the UK before flying to Vietnam, where he told relatives he planned to take a kite-surfing course.

He never went on the course and on Feb 13th fell from his hotel onto the roof of a house and died from multiple injuries.

The assistant Gloucestershire coroner, Dr Simon Fox QC, heard that methamphetamine and another unknown drug was found in his blood at post mortem.

Dr Fox ruled there was insufficient evidence to justify a conclusion of either suicide or accidental death.

He recorded simply that 'He died after falling from a tall building.'

After the inquest Mr O'Sullivan's family said they were content with the finding and hoped that the evidence that he may have had post traumatic stress disorder would result in his name being listed at the National Memorial Arboretum.

The inquest heard that Mr O'Sullivan, who had married a Thai woman in Bangkok in 2012, had been involved in a previous incident when he tried to jump from a hotel roof last September.

It happened in Bangkok when he took drugs and went onto the roof but was prevented from jumping by staff and his wife.

His sister Angela Cleer told the inquest he had always wanted to be a soldier since boyhood and in 2000 he joined the Parachute Regiment.

He later became a member of the elite Pathfinder platoon. He left the army in 2010 and started work in close protection in Iraq.

He married a Thai woman in a Buddhist ceremony in Bangkok in 2012 and all seemed to be going well until 2014 when she started to notice he 'wasn't good' and things were 'not going well for him,' she stated.

The marriage was struggling and he was having bad dreams, said Mrs Cleer.

'I suggested he go and see Combat Stress but he didn't show any interest in looking for help.'

She said in September 2015 she spoke to him when he was in Thailand and he had clearly taken drugs. He asked her to fly out and get him so she did because she was so concerned about him.

'He had taken a lot of drugs and had been trying to jump off a hotel but his partner and the hotel staff had prevented him from doing so. My understanding was that it was the drugs which had made him behave that way.

'He was very paranoid when we got there and said he thought his partner was poisoning him. He also thought the police were after him. '

He returned to the UK with her and saw his doctor but remained anxious and paranoid, she stated.

The following month he went on holiday with his parents.

Mrs Cleer said that on Dec 3 he went to Combat Stress and was assessed by a nurse and he also saw his GP, Dr Andrew Sampson again.

He then flew to Iraq on Dec 8 for eight weeks work, returning to Stroud for one night before flying to Vietnam to learn kite surfing.

Mrs Cleer said she spoke to him in Ho Ch Minh City and he said he was bored and had not started the course. He kept putting it off from day to day.

'He never hinted at having any intention to harm himself,' she said.

But he did tell her he had spent night in prison and he had a bump on the back of his head but he could not recall what had happened.

The family then received the news of his fatal fall.

Combat Stress mental health nurse Mr Coombs said he assessed Mr O'Sullivan and got him to complete a questionnaire designed to find out if someone is a victim of post traumatic stress.

Mr O'Sullivan's total score was not high enough to say that he did have PTSD - but he had indicated strongly that he was thinking of self harm or suicide.

'He also said that while in Gloucestershire he had been using cocaine and he had used it quite recently.

'He did not allude to using anything else. It is possible that such thrill seeking drugs could impair someone's mental health. Crystal meth is also known to cause paranoia.'

Mr Coombs said Mr O'Sullivan met so many of the PTSD criteria that he decided to refer him to a psychiatrist to decide if he was a victim of the disorder - but there was no appointment available till April.

'I think he may have had a PTSD but I am not able to diagnose myself and that is why I asked him to go to see the consultant psychiatrist,' he said.

'I was not asking everyone I saw to go and see a GP. I felt there was enough there for him to someone who could make the diagnosis one way or another.'

Dr Sampson said if Mr O'Sullivan had not been going back to Iraq on Dec 8th he would have put him on anti depressants then. But he did not want to do so unless the medication could be monitored by a doctor.

'We agreed to meet again on his return from Iraq to consider starting him on anti depressants at that point,' he said.

Mr O'Sullivan's father Anthony said 'Pete experienced some very severe military activity in Afghanistan. He came down with psoriasis and it caused him a lot of stress.

'He started to have a tic and facial problems during his service and that, to me, clearly indicated that he was suffering from PTSD.'

'Pete also did the SAS assessment training and he passed that course. It has been noted that the course, which is a very severe physical test where they go through tremendous stressful situations, can trigger PTSD as well.'

Mr O'Sullivan senior also said the family had been 'very upset' they were not told their son's suicide risk factor although he appreciated there were issues of confidentiality.

'Had we known we would have said 'Forget going back to work, let's just get you right,' he said.

After the inquest Mr O'Sullivan said the family were anxious to establish that his son had PTSD so he could be remembered at the National Arboretum.

'We want his service to be recognised there,' he said. 'To do that evidence of post traumatic stress related to military service is needed.

'Although that has not been part of the inquest conclusion today we feel the evidence has helped us to achieve recognition for Pete.'

Sue Freeth, chief executive of Combat Stress, said: 'We are very saddened by the death of Peter O'Sullivan and our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.

'Any veteran we see who is at risk of suicide is referred to their GP or accident and emergency service for assistance and specialist help.

'Consultant psychiatrist appointments at Combat Stress are offered to veterans at the earliest opportunity, and if veterans are unavailable to attend due to their travel arrangements, an appointment is offered to them as soon as possible on their return.

'Combat Stress offers support and treatment for veterans with PTSD, depression and anxiety. Our 24-hour Helpline is available on 0800 138 1619 for veterans and serving personnel, and their families.'
A tragic event my thoughts go to Peter's family
Stand Easy brother.

Mr Coombs said Mr O'Sullivan met so many of the PTSD criteria that he decided to refer him to a psychiatrist to decide if he was a victim of the disorder - but there was no appointment available till April.
PTSD is a killer and Peter should have been seen and helped much sooner.

They want his name to be included at the National Memorial Arboretum - something which can only happen if his death is accepted to have resulted from his military service.
Rightly so too

Thanks for sharing this

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