Magazine article The Spectator

Tragic Syndrome

Magazine article The Spectator

Tragic Syndrome

Article excerpt

Singular life Tragic syndrome

The most damaging allegation in this whole farce of the Paul Burrell trial is the by now fabled 'rape' tape recorded by Diana, Princess of Wales, at the bedside of the supposed victim George Smith.

Mr Smith, a 42-year-old Falklands 'hero', as described by the Mail on Sunday, claimed he was brutally raped by a male member of Prince Charles's household. And who would doubt the work of a respected war veteran?

Well, I for one do. I doubt very much that Mr Smith means any malice, but I suspect his credentials as a teller of the unadulterated truth. By his own admission he was already suffering from serious drink and emotional problems while he was serving in the Prince of Wales's own company in the war.

He was further tormented by the sight of comrades being burnt alive on the Sir Galahad when it was bombed by the Argentines. Since then he has been prescribed heavy medication for depression and was sent to the Priory clinic.

All of this indicates that Smith is not a normal, balanced man, but a soul in torment. For me, the most significant aspect of his history relates to his experiences in the Falklands. Often, once soldiers return to civilian life, after suffering acute horrors, they begin behaving oddly. Sometimes they feel unrecognised and unappreciated and have a tendency to try to compensate for this by drawing attention to themselves and their supposed ill treatment.

Anyone who has read about soldiers who returned from wars in the past will recognise this tragic syndrome. My father, who fought in the second world war, had many men under his command who felt nothing but bitterness when they returned to normal life. They were difficult to live with and found it hard to readjust. One private, with whom my father kept in touch, told him a series of sob stories which turned out to be fabrications. I myself once met a man who was imprisoned in a Japanese war camp. This harrowing experience broke down his character entirely. When he came back to England he could no longer distinguish between fact and fiction. According to doctors it is not uncommon for those who have suffered unusual terror to begin either exaggerating or fantasising wildly.

Mr Smith was obviously a very lonely man who longed to be loved. Yet there are serious discrepancies in his story. It now turns out he was probably not at the house of the alleged rapist on the date he mentioned. …

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