THE mother of a Warsop Army veteran who was found hanged says her son was unable to cope with life after serving in Afghanistan and feels let down by the Ministry of Defence.
Pte Lee Bonsall (24) was discovered by his wife Serena when she returned to their home in Tenby, South Wales, on the evening of 3rd March.
Lee’s family believe his death was due to suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) caused in part by the loss in combat of his friend Pte Andrew Cutts, who he served alongside.
Pte Cutts, from Blidworth, served with Lee as a driver in 13 Air Assault Support Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps, in Musa Qualeh, northern Helmand province, and was killed in August 2006 while on an operation against Taliban forces.
Lee’s mother, Karen Bonsall (50), of Woodland Grove, Warsop, said her son had been devastated by the loss of his friend.
“When he came back to his bed the Stags’ flag they shared had gone, his bed (Pte Cutts’) was rolled up and there was just an empty space,” she said.
“He was very, very unhappy in the Army. He came to see the GP when he was home on leave and he gave Lee a sick note for depression but after a while the Army made him go back.”
Karen said Lee went absent without leave from the Army but did eventually return, saying he would do it again.
He took an overdose of eight paracetamol tablets and served 20 days in military prison before receiving administrative discharge in September 2007.
Karen said: “They are taught in the Army that they cannot show weakness and have to be strong - especially if they are feeling like they are disgraced. They will not ask for help.
“His friends said he was never the same again and his personality completely changed.”
The family all described Lee as a fun-loving and lively person who was ‘full of mischief’. But this changed after his time in Afghanistan.
“Sometimes he could not control his thoughts and then he would drink and cry,” Karen said.
Lee, who joined the Army in 2006 when he was 18, met his wife Serena (24) while on holiday in the Dominican Republic.
He moved to Tenby to live with Serena and the couple married in July last year.
Serena and the rest of the family said one of their favourite memories of Lee was on his wedding day.
Serena said: “When I was walking down the aisle he said ‘I do not want to look until you are halfway down’. When he did he just burst into laughter and looked so beautiful.”
After returning from Afghanistan, Lee had various driving jobs and most recently worked at Sainsbury’s as a sales assistant in Tenby.
The family were shocked by Lee’s sudden death as he and Serena had planned to have friends to stay and were planning a holiday in Tunisia.
Said mother-of-three Karen: “When he started going absent without leave they should have asked why.”
Serena added: “It does not matter why you have come out, you should have help.”
An MOD spokesman said yesterday: “The mental health of service personnel is a top priority and we have robust systems in place to identify and treat those with mental health issues including when deployed on operations.
“The MoD’s highly experienced mental health professionals deliver high quality treatment at the dedicated Departments of Community Mental Health clinics both in the UK and overseas.”
Lee is also survived by his brother Dan Booth, father Ken Bonsall, sister Trudi Owen, and nieces Lola, Darcy and Lyla.
His funeral will be held at Warsop Parish Church on Friday at 2.30pm and a wake will be held afterwards at the Black Market. The family have asked for donations to veterans’ support charity Braveheart rather than flowers. To donate visit www.braveheartprogramme.org.
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