Bullying at work, the mental effects of an alleged rape and the break-up of a relationship all played their part in the death of Anne-Marie Ellement, who was found hanging in 2011, a coroner rules.
The coroner Nicholas Rheinberg said the Ministry of Defence (MOD) should review its care for vulnerable soldiers. Anne-Marie Ellement, a Corporal in the Royal Military Police, died at an army barracks. Mr Rheinberg ruled that she took her own life at a Salisbury inquest on Monday.
This was the second inquest into the death of Corporal Anne-Marie Ellement and her family fought hard for it, Cordelia Lynch writes. The RMP officer was found hanged at Bulford Camp in October 2011, but her family were unsatisfied with the initial verdict of suicide. They had many questions, most critically, what caused the 30 year old to take her own life?
Last week, the family said they feared there had been a cover-up when 1,400 documents were disclosed on the day the verdict was expected. 29 of them were described as relevant and included 3 mobile phones and a diary. The MOD said it was an unfortunate omission.
Today the family said they were delighted with the verdict that identified a number of factors including bullying at work and the lingering mental effect of the rape had led her to her death.
In a statement read outside court, Cpl Ellement’s family said they welcomed the coroner’s conclusions and recommendations.
Her sister, Sharon Hardy, said: “The family are delighted with this verdict we have today. The coroner has confirmed what we have always known – that Anne-Marie was treated appallingly and let down by the Army.
“She was never able to recover from the allegation of rape she made in Germany. She then suffered bullying by the Army and was subjected to unacceptable work practices. Victims of sexual abuse in the Army need proper support, which the coroner has recognised, and we are delighted with his recommendations.”
Anne-Marie’s friend, Rachel Percival , who knew her at Bulford but served with another unit, said Anne-Marie became deeply upset when her immediate superior criticised her work on Facebook. Staff Sgt Julian Clarke denied making any direct reference to her, but said “Everyday, I regret what I wrote.”
“She was crying so much, she couldn’t even talk, it was like she was hyperventilating. I couldn’t make sense of her, it took ages to… calm her down. I just remember saying, ‘Come on Anne-Marie, it’s all right, I’m here now’. She was just in floods of tears,” she told Channel 4 News.
Mr Rheinberg concluded that Corporal Anne-Marie Ellement hanged herself at Bulford Barracks in Wiltshire, two years after she alleged that two soldiers raped her while she was stationed in Germany.
But he said that, although the care given to Cpl Ellement in the aftermath of the allegation had been of “high quality”, the transfer of information when she returned to the UK had been “unforgivably bad”.
He said he would be recommending to the Minstry of Defence that it review its suicide vulnerability risk assessment procedures and ensure that medical personnel are regularly given refresher training.
Anne-Marie’s mother, Alexandra Barritt, visits her grave every day and holds the RMP responsible for her death.
Speaking to Channel 4 News, she said: “I feel total disgust. It was their duty to support her and look after her and they turned a blind eye and did nothing.
“I used to meet up with her every Saturday and we’d go for coffee and go shopping and she’d chat to me. I could see a difference in her over the last few months before her death. She had lost her spark and had lost her bubbliness. She was like a shell of her former self.”
Brigadier John Donnelly, Director of Personal Services said: “The Army deeply regrets the tragic death of Cpl Anne-Marie Ellement and, although there were aspects of her care that were praised, I want to apologise to her family for the failures that the Coroner has identified.
“This second inquest has been an extremely thorough investigation by Her Majesty’s Coroner and Anne-Marie’s family has shown great dignity throughout. We now have a clear understanding of the complex circumstances surrounding her death and where the Army needs to learn lessons.
“Our priority is to study the Coroner’s conclusions and then identify what further steps can be taken, to help prevent a recurrence of this kind of tragedy in the future. At present, however, our thoughts and sympathy lie with Anne Marie’s family and her friends at this difficult time.