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Cpl. Stuart Langridge's suicide mishandled by military, report finds

03/10/2015 01:00 EDT | Updated 05/10/2015 05:59 EDT
A Military Police Complaints Commission report on the investigations into the suicide of Cpl. Stuart Langridge details a list of errors and failures by the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service, including a decision to withhold a suicide note he had addressed to his family.

As a result, Langridge's wishes for his funeral were not respected, and his parents were denied control over funeral arrangements. Instead, the military designated Langridge's ex-girlfriend his next of kin.

Langridge, a veteran of missions in Bosnia and Afghanistan, killed himself at CFB Edmonton in 2008. After lengthy delays, the MPCC's hearings into the military's handling of their investigations wrapped up in January, 2013.

The MPCC report released today says military police investigators were so incompetent in their initial suicide investigation that the force should not be trusted with sudden death investigations.

The force also totally failed to investigate why the funeral and suicide note were so mishandled, and whether negligence on the part of Langridge's superiors had contributed to his death. They then told his parents, Sheila and Shaun Fynes,in writing that they had conducted "two detailed and comprehensive investigations," the MPCC report says.

"The commission also concluded there were unacceptable errors, reflecting lack of professionalism and/or lack of competence, in the way the military police interacted and communicated with the Fynes, particularly in connection with Cpl. Langridge’s suicide note. The suicide note was wrongly withheld from the Fynes for 14 months. The reasons for this were never properly explained to them," MPCC chair Glenn Stannard said.

Secrecy 'unacceptable'

The MPCC says when it presented its interim findings and recommendations to the Canadian Forces, the military's provost marshal broke with accepted practice by declaring the military's response secret.

When the MPCC threatened court action, the military then offered to lift the secret designation in return for a promise that the MPCC would not publish the response as part of its report, though that has always been standard practice.

Only when the MPCC announced it was going to court did the provost marshal agree to lift the secret designation last Friday.

But the MPCC is still concerned that the provost marshal claims to be entitled to control what the commission can and cannot do with the response, including imposing conditions or blocking publication entirely.

"This is unacceptable," Stannard said. 

"The commission will therefore continue with its application to Federal Court to challenge the [provost marshal's] policy."

'Failed to respond'

The MPCC says the military's response to its report seeks to evade the most important issues, offers no plan to improve its behaviour in the future, and suggests the military police intend to make no significant changes.

"The military police has, with a few minor exceptions, either rejected or failed to respond to the commission’s findings and recommendations," Stannard said.

A statement by the provost marshal, Col. Rob Delaney, said he is committed to reviewing and "implementing those recommendations necessary to maintain the level of excellence" of the military police.

"I would like to also offer my sincere apologies to Mr. and Mrs. Fynes. As grieving parents, they came to us with several complaints to be investigated and we failed to live up to their expectations. Today, the MPCC highlighted numerous mistakes in the conduct of these investigations," Delaney said.

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