Soldier suicide inquiry poised to wrap up
OTTAWA - Closing arguments at the inquiry into the suicide of a soldier in his Edmonton barracks are being heard today in Ottawa — and the lawyer for Cpl. Stuart Langridge's family says National Defence has a lot to learn.
Michel Drapeau, a retired colonel, says trust in the military police establishment has been badly shaken by revelations at the hearing, which sat for 62 days and heard 92 witnesses.
Langridge's parents, Shaun and Sheila Fynes, filed 32 complaints with the Military Police Public Complaints commission, alleging the investigation into their son's death was botched.
Drapeau says that almost from the outset the aim of the Defence Department was to "protect the brand."
Langridge, a veteran of Afghanistan, hanged himself in March 2008 after being ordered back to base following treatment for drug and alcohol addiction in a civilian hospital.
His family contends the military treated him as a malcontent, and that helped drive him over the edge.
Drapeau says there's a rising incidence of suicide in the military, and the institution has important lessons to learn.
"These are our sons and daughters, and we need to find out what can be done to prevent suicides," Drapeau said in an interview this week.
The inquiry heard how military police concealed Langridge's suicide note from his parents for 14 months, claiming the sheet of paper was evidence in a suspicious-death probe. The investigators stuck to the line even though the coroner at the scene described it as a clear-cut case of suicide.
There were conflicting claims about whether the troubled soldier was on a suicide watch prior to his death. Had he been so, the military would have been liable for his death.
The inquiry also heard how the final military police report into the death was heavily rewritten and censored.
Sgt. Matthew Ritco, the lead investigator, testified that direction came down from "higher'' to create two case summary files, one written by him and another rewritten version to be delivered to the chain of command, including Langridge's commanding officer.
The final draft removed all but one reference to the victim having been on suicide watch before his death.
Lawyers for the government will also present their final arguments.
A decision from the complaints commission is not expected for months.