Inside Politics

Video captures hours following soldier's suicide

In the Military Police Complaints Commission's cramped hearing room Thursday morning a hushed audience of lawyers and reporters watched a half hour video.

The video is part of a military investigation into the suicide by hanging of Cpl. Stuart Langridge who killed himself on March 15th, 2008.

The images show Cpl. Langridge's body suspended from a bar in his room at Edmonton Garrison barracks. The camera zooms in on his face and neck, and then circles around the room cataloguing Langridge's possessions, down to the T-shirts in his drawer.

Cpl. Langridge's parents - his mother Sheila and stepfather Shaun Fynes - were not in the room. They've been present most days as the Military Police Complaints Commission hears complaint into how the military handled the investigation into their son's death. The Fynes pushed to have the video played at the hearing.

The military says Langridge committed suicide because he suffered from depression caused by a drug and alcohol addiction. Langridge's parents say he had post-traumatic stress syndrome, which the military would not acknowledge, triggered by his tours in Bosnia and Afghanistan.

One of the Fynes' grievances is that their son's body was left hanging for four hours after it was discovered, to the point, they say, where people had to knock him out of the way to get in and out of the room. Shaun Fynes, a former police officer, told the military that as a policeman he was taught to cut a body down immediately as long as the knot is preserved.

Dennis Caufield of the Alberta Chief Medical Officer's office told the hearing the scene was a "classic situation for a suicidal hanging." Homicidal hangings are rare, he testified, and the lividity of Langridge's body (the pooling of blood), as well as the lack of defensive wounds, was consistent with suicide.

Caufield also testified that it's not his practice to cut a body down right away unless it's in a public place. The video, a compressed version of what happened, doesn't show anyone pushing the body aside.

But in the camera's slow track around the room, there is a piece of foolscap paper on Langridge's bedside table. It was his suicide note, written to his parents and siblings. The videographer reads aloud, beginning, "Sorry, but I can't take it any more."

The military withheld this note from Langridge's parents for 14 months, notwithstanding the fact it contained Langridge's wishes for his own funeral. The note was part of the evidence in an investigation, the military reasoned, and could only be released under an access-to-information request.

In documents filed with the Commission, Langridge's parents puzzle over why the military took months to investigate and then issued a 568-page report about the cause of Langridge's death. "I just don't get it," Sheila Fynes says, adding it took the medical examiner about 15 minutes to conclude it was a suicide.

These comments come from an interview the Fynes did with an officer who represents the military's major crimes investigation unit. The reply to the Fynes' question: "We don't put all our eggs in one basket," and: "What we don't do is invest 100 per cent in the coroner."

The military eventually did find that Langridge committed suicide.

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