Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Withholding Soldier's Suicide Note for 14 Months Sign of Coverup: Stepfather

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Withholding Soldier's Suicide Note for 14 Months Sign of Coverup: Stepfather

Article excerpt

Soldier's suicide note withheld for 14 months


OTTAWA - A Canadian soldier's suicide note was withheld from his parents for 14 months by military police in what Cpl. Stuart Langridge's stepfather calls a calculated deception.

Shaun Fynes, in his second day of testimony before a public inquiry, said he believes his son's last communication was kept back to protect the military.

"My son had (post-traumatic stress disorder), he was in pain and he couldn't take it anymore," Fynes testified Thursday. "That was the truth of that note and that was part of the coverup."

The Canadian Forces National Investigative Service says it held on to the note because it was evidence in an ongoing investigation.

It acknowledges 14 months does not represent "expeditious" handling of the note, but has never explained why it needed to keep it beyond the first few days of the investigation.

"I am left to conclude it was not inept and it was a very calculated deception designed to protect the uniform from embarrassment," Fynes said.

The family has never received a formal apology regarding the note, although the military has conceded it was wrong to withhold it.

Fynes says when the family did finally receive the note, it was a photocopy, and they had to demand the original.

The Military Police Complaints Commission is examining whether the military investigation into Langridge's March 2008 death was biased.

At one point, as the family searched for answers, the military investigators refused to meet Fynes because they anticipated he might take legal action.

"It speaks to an attempt to protect the image and the brand," Fynes said. "It doesn't speak to police work -- or my understanding of police work, or the independence of police work to conduct a fair and impartial investigation."

The family had not threatened to sue over the death, but had filed a statement of claim to recover money they felt was owed to their son's estate, Fynes added.

That claim was dropped.

Justice Department lawyer Elizabeth Richards challenged the notion that military covered up the suicide in order to avoid embarrassment, pointing to its role in catching serial killer Russell Williams, a former air force colonel.

"So you agree there are incidents and circumstances where military police do investigate senior leadership within the Canadian Forces and do lay charges?" she asked.

"And you're aware the National Investigative Service has been involved in (investigating) alleged drug use by members of the Canadian Forces?"

"I'd certainly hope so," Fynes answered.

"And that's something in fact you wanted investigated, and you'd agree with me that's something that might be embarrassing," Richards continued.

Langridge struggled with alcohol and drug addiction during the last few years of his life following tours of duty in Bosnia and Afghanistan. …

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