A member of the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service says he believed Cpl. Stuart Langridge, who'd attempted suicide at least five times, was not on a suicide watch at the time he killed himself in barracks at CFB Edmonton.
Warrant Officer Jon Bigelow was testifying at a Military Police Complaints Commission inquiry Wednesday, the first time it heard from one of the NIS members who investigated Langridge's suicide.
Bigelow said his unit was aware there was some evidence Langridge was on a suicide watch — which, if true, he said, meant that military staff could be subject to charges of conduct unbecoming or criminal negligence. However Bigelow said today that he didn't think that Langridge was on a suicide watch.
"I don't think there's any definitive evidence that he was," Bigelow testified.
"So, because there was nothing definitive that he was on a suicide watch, you concluded that he wasn't?" asked the MPCC lawyer. "After the fact, yes," replied Bigelow.
Langridge's parents, Shaun and Sheila Fynes, contend their son was indeed on a suicide watch and that the military was negligent. The MPCC is hearing their complaint that the military mishandled the investigation into the death of their son. Thirteen members of the military are the subjects of the complaint, including Bigelow.
Treated as potential crime scene
Bigelow said that he arrived at CFB Edmonton barracks at about 5 p.m. on March 15, 2008 and didn't leave until 2 in the morning. The event was treated as a potential crime scene, Bigelow said.
Bigelow admitted Langridge's body showed no signs of a struggle. Nevertheless, his team took extensive photographs and video of the body as well as the room and Langridge's possessions, and held back a suicide note addressed to Langridge's parents.
Bigelow said that he was asked to make a photocopy of the suicide note to give to the provincial medical examiner. He wore gloves while handling it but admitted that the note was never forensically examined for fingerprints.
The Fynes weren't given the note until 14 months later.
Bigelow said that his unit was determined to find out why Langridge committed suicide in order to "provide closure to the family." He says he doesn't know why doctors from the Alberta Hospital, where Langridge had recently been committed for 30 days, were not interviewed.
Bigelow also explained Wednesday why Langridge's body was left hanging for 90 minutes as the military not only took pictures but also videotaped the body, the room and all of Langridge's possessions: "It's (because of) the potential of losing any evidence, in case your photos don't work out… and you can get a better picture sometimes with video versus photos – that would be the reason why."
NDP Defence critic Jack Harris issued a press release Wednesday decrying the fact that Langridge's body was left to hang for that long.
Harris also called again for the Government of Canada to hand over information to the Military Police Complaint Commission.
The government is claiming solicitor-client privilege over any legal information given by Judge Advocate General lawyers to the military about the Langridge case. The client is the minister of defence, Peter MacKay.
The military eventually concluded that Langridge killed himself due to drug and alcohol addiction, and depression about his estranged girlfriend. His parents have said he was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder following his tours in Bosnia and Afghanistan.
Tuesday, the inquiry heard from Dr. William Lai, a Defence Department contract psychologist who testified that Langridge "likely" suffered from PTSD, an assessment he based on a psychological questionnaire patients are required to fill out.
He stopped short of describing his findings as a diagnosis, instead calling it a "working hypothesis" that required more interviews. But when asked whether PTSD could be ruled out, he responded emphatically. "No, you cannot rule it out at this point."
Sgt. Matthew Ritco, the NIS investigator who lead the investigation into Langridge's suicide, will appear at the MPCC Thursday.