Iraq war veteran ‘died by his own hand’ after PTSD struggle

Ben Riches, right, in his army days. Pictured with his brother Steve
Ben Riches, right, in his army days. Pictured with his brother Steve
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A Fleetwood war veteran is believed to have taken his own life after years of struggling with his demons.

Ben Riches, 30, died at Blackpool Victoria Hospital on April 11 one month after he was sectioned under the mental health act.

A former kingsman with the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, he served in Iraq, Afghanistan and Canada during his military career.

At his pre-inquest review at Wyre Civic Centre in Poulton yesterday, coroner James Newman heard from Mr Riches’ father how the ex-serviceman was believed to have suffered from post-traumatic stress for years before his death.

He said: “(In) Ben’s GP notes PTSD was mentioned as far back as 2013. I believe that Ben was in denial at the time with the attitude ‘man up and get on with it’. We believe PTSD went undiagnosed then plummeted down very quickly due to alcohol.

“We all feel that after Christmas the PTSD became complex PTSD, which is much more serious.

“We have concerns that Ben was taken to a place of safety, but he was not released into a place of safety. He was sent home to an empty house.”

The family - dad Kevin, mum Caroline and widow Lauren - also spoke of how Mr Riches had been badly injured in a house fire in 2015, which caused him pain and anxiety.

Mr Riches Sr said: “He spent 10 days on life support machine, with horrendous scars. The mental effects of that on a young man, having a skin graft on his head. He couldn’t bear it.”

Mr Riches attended Blackpool Victoria hospital several times leading up to his death, and repeated attempts were made to put him in touch with Lancashire Care’s mental health service.

He was known to have problems with alcohol and had been in trouble with the police.

Mr Newman said: “The tragedy is, and I wish it wasn’t the case as today is World Mental Health Day, the number of cases I cover of young men who die by their own hands.”

He said it was important that the court came to an understanding of Mr Riches’ apparently ‘chaotic’ lifestyle, adding: “I have heard at military inquests before the mentality of the young, and particularly the mentality of servicemen, is that they don’t want to complain. You go out with your mates and you have 10 pints and forget about it.”

He said that it was possible that Mr Riches’ alcohol troubles were a result of him trying to hide his feelings from himself.

A four-day inquest into Mr Riches’ death is expected to take place in Preston in May. Evidence will be heard from a pathologist, police, and Blackpool Victoria Hospital and Lancashire Care staff.

Mental health support is available 24/7 from the Samaritans, who can be reached on 116 123.