Stuart Langridge suicide report places blame on victim, parents' divorce

The family of Cpl. Stuart Langridge, a Canadian soldier who took his own life in 2008, is outraged by the findings of a board of inquiry into his death.

Secret 1,434-page analysis says soldier was distraught over end of relationship with common-law wife

Only when the Military Police Complaints Commission announced it was going to court did the provost marshal agree to lift the secret designation in Cpl. Stuart Langridge's case.

The family of Cpl. Stuart Langridge, a Canadian soldier who took his own life in 2008, is outraged by the findings of a board of inquiry into his death.

Langridge hanged himself at CFB Edmonton nearly seven years ago. His family has been in a bitter struggle with the military ever since.

National Defence had refused to release the findings to his parents, one of the reasons his mother, Sheila, and stepfather, Shaun Fynes, complained to the country's military police watchdog.

This week, the Military Police Complaints Commission issued a scathing report into the military’s handling of the case. One day after the commission released its findings, Langridge’s parents were finally shown a report by military investigators who also examined their son’s death.

The board completed its work in 2009 and the family has been demanding to see the results ever since. The military finally relented this week, but only provided a partial copy of the board’s report.  

'Impossible to confirm state of mind'

The report is a difficult read. It chronicles Langridge’s descent from model soldier to a man found hanging by his neck from a chin-up bar in a military barracks.

"It is impossible to confirm Cpl. Langridge’s state of mind prior to suicide," the report says before launching into an exhaustive examination of the corporal’s personal and professional life as well as his struggle with mental illness and substance abuse.

The board concludes Langridge attempted suicide five times in the last year of his life and determines that "the final three months of [his] life were tumultuous." Throughout it all, though, the report says the corporal "wanted to become a good soldier again."

"He couldn’t bring himself to shake his addictions and failed to demonstrate that he was ready for the commitment and responsibility associated with being in a deployable squadron," the report says.

'Overwhelmed' by end of relationship

The board says Langridge’s home life deteriorated in that period. Shortly before he took his own life, the report says, Langridge’s common-law spouse announced she was ending their relationship.

"The board concluded that his spouse’s decision to finally end their relationship overwhelmed Cpl. Langridge emotionally and caused him to commit suicide," the report notes.   

Langridge was a veteran of Bosnia and Afghanistan. But the report concludes he was not suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

"The board found that the death was not attributable to military service," it says.

Kenney promises meeting with family

The corporal’s family has rejected the board’s conclusions, calling the report part of "an ongoing nightmare."

"This is one more stark and flagrant example that the military justice system is unable to properly look after military families," said Langridge’s mother, Sheila Fynes, in a statement.

"The military seems more preoccupied in protecting the ‘brand’ than in getting to the truth."

Fynes is particularly incensed at what she sees as the military blaming her son’s family for his suicide. The report concludes Langridge had "long-standing personal issues” left over from his parents’ divorce when he was five years old.

"These events had a profound effect on Cpl. Langridge, leaving him full of anger and a sense of abandonment that he was unable to come to terms with."

Fynes calls the comments "outside the accepted bounds of humanity, decency and civility."

On Friday in Calgary, Defence Minister Jason Kenney called the report "deeply regrettable" and he promised changes.

He said his office is reviewing the report and Kenney plans to meet with the Fynes family after that review is complete.

Report falls short, family lawyer says

Michel Drapeau, the lawyer for the Fynes family, says his clients want to see the entire board of inquiry report, not just the partial copy the military has provided. As it stands, he says, the report falls far short.

"The leadership, the chain of command and the medical care that he received, none of that receives any critical review or any critical findings," Drapeau said in an interview with CBC News.

"That report should not be trying to lecture Mr. and Mrs. Fynes or lecture his ex-girlfriend as to what they may or may not have done."

Drapeau says nothing in the report offers any insight into whether the military could have done more to prevent the corporal’s death or how it can prevent other suicides in future. To him, it seems aimed more at clearing the military of any responsibility.

About the Author

Tom Parry

Senior Reporter

Tom Parry is a reporter on Parliament Hill for CBC News. He has covered stories for CBC from across Canada and around the world.


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