Retired Army officer ‘haunted’ by war killed himself

A retired senior Army officer ‘haunted’ by what he had seen on the battlefield hanged himself after suffering from anxiety and depression.

Former Lt Col Michael Russell was found dead at his home in Topsham, Devon, having also lost his wife of 32 years to terminal illness.

An inquest heard the former Devon and Dorset officer, who was also in the Intelligence Corps during his 45-year career, hanged himself in February.

His heartbroken brother Christopher Russell questioned whether his experiences in the military had led to his death.  

An inquest into the death of former Lt Col Michael Russell held at County Hall in Exeter, Devon, pictured above, heard the 63-year-old was ‘haunted’ by his battlefield experiences

He told the coroner: ‘He saw a lot of things in Bosnia which he was very upset about.’

The coroner said there were ‘unpleasant experiences which haunted him subsequently’.

A psychotherapist who saw him for two years said that the 63 year old started seeing her when his wife Ursula died from a terminal illness.

Pyschotherapist Angela Avis said Lt Col Russell suffered from complex issues which impaired his mourning process.

She said he was also experiencing ‘distressing memories associated with his military career causing him to question his fundamental beliefs and values’.

She said in her opinion he was experiencing ‘exaggerated grief reaction’.

She said he felt guilt and self blame and was even reluctant to change things in his home because he felt it would be a ‘betrayal’.

He suffered a panic attack on a flight home to the UK from a long holiday in Australia a month before he died, but said he had no plans to kill himself.

Although financially very secure, the inquest at County Hall in Exeter, Devon, heard he ‘wanted to die’ as his only escape but said he was not brave enough to do it.

The inquest heard he spent 45 years in the Army achieving high rank.

The coroner was told he found retirement from that rigid military structure destabilising because he had lost his position of purpose.

His new partner Judy Day said Michael had a ‘bad couple of years’ after his wife died and his mental health took a dip.

The Devon coroner Dr Elizabeth Earland said he was ‘the author of his own demise and was satisfied that he had reached the point where he could not continue’. 

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