War veteran Paul took his life after being haunted by memories of Afghanistan

Corporal Paul Corlett. Picture by Rob LockCorporal Paul Corlett. Picture by Rob Lock
Corporal Paul Corlett. Picture by Rob Lock
A tragic ex-army soldier haunted by memories of Afghanistan took his own life.

Paul Corlett, 49, was a soldier for 24 years and served in the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan, and was awarded medals for his dedication.

He was deeply troubled by his time in the army, but was ‘a complete closed book’ and did not like to talk about his feelings, an inquest heard.

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He was found hanged in the back garden of his Marton home on June 28.

Paul Corlett at " Bloomfield Road ", Kabul Airport, AfghanistanPaul Corlett at " Bloomfield Road ", Kabul Airport, Afghanistan
Paul Corlett at " Bloomfield Road ", Kabul Airport, Afghanistan

A suicide note, written by Mr Corlett, was left in his kitchen at the Falkland Avenue home.

At his inquest at Blackpool Town Hall, his mother Sandra Corlett said: “After his second tour of Afghanistan he came home and he was different. That was in 2004. He came to meet up with the family on holiday and we just saw a change in him.

“He was quiet. He just wasn’t Paul.

“He would keep it to himself. He spoke to his sister about the things that distressed him, but he didn’t speak to me or his dad.”

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Paul Corlett in front of an abondoned Iraqi tank on the road to Basra / Iraq warPaul Corlett in front of an abondoned Iraqi tank on the road to Basra / Iraq war
Paul Corlett in front of an abondoned Iraqi tank on the road to Basra / Iraq war

The court heard how, on the morning of June 28, Mr Corlett and his partner, Sarah Ray had been doing some DIY work in their home.

Ms Ray then left to spend time with her daughter, but spoke to Mr Corlett over the phone at around 3pm, when he seemed normal.

Ms Ray said: “He was a complete closed book. He’d say certain things, like he wasn’t getting enough sleep, but I wasn’t ever alarmed. He kept it to himself. He didn’t divulge anything.

“We were joking, to be honest. He was making a mess and I was tidying around him. It was just a normal day.

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“He messaged me to see if I was OK and I called him back, and my daughter was calling me so it was cut short. Nothing caused concern.

“I just said I’d be home after tea.”

At around 5.30pm, Ms Ray returned home to find military-style band music playing loudly from the TV. Mr Corlett’s framed army medals had been stripped from the walls and there were photographs of her spread out on a table in the front room.

She searched for Mr Corlett, finally finding him in the back garden.

Paramedics were called and he was taken by ambulance to Blackpool Victoria Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

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He did not seek any professional help before taking his life.

Handing down a conclusion of suicide, coroner Baker said: “I have seen a moving letter by Paul that clearly contemplates his death. That letter was left in a place that would be found, but only after his death.

“The contents speak very highly of the support given to Paul by Sarah and all the members of his family. I’m sure that nothing could have been done to prevent this tragedy.

“It came as a complete shock and surprise.

“It seems now that years of serving his country took their toll on Paul. He took the decision to put his life to an end because of the problems that haunted him.

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“It was in his nature to face adversity alone. He would not want to burden his family or anyone else with his problems, but this increased the pressure on himself and he found these pressures to be unendurable.”

“RIP Seasider”

In 2007, Mr Corlett, who was a Blackpool FC supporter and member of the Blackpool Supporters Association (BSA), helped turn a small part of Afghanistan Tangerine.

His team, the 516 Specialist Team Royal Engineers, laboured for weeks to build a new road leading to Kabul airport, so trucks containing fuel could get to the planes.

The Seasiders were, at the time, flying high in League One, and it was Mr Corlett who suggested naming the thoroughfair after Bloomfield Road.

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And in May that year, he flew home just in time to see his team soar to victory against Oldham in the semi-finals of the League One play-offs.

Before he flew home, he wrote a letter to The Gazette.

He wrote: “I’d like to wish Simon Grayson, the staff and players good luck for the game on Sunday against Oldham.

“A BSA member, I am currently serving in Afghanistan with 516 Specialist Team Royal Engineers and have been following the team’s progress with much satisfaction.

“At the weekend I will be getting on a plane from Kabul down to Kandahar where I can watch the game on TV then fly back to Kabul the next day.

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“I have recently had a new track opened at Kabul International Airport and got it named Bloomfield Road!

“I have timed my R+R to coincide with the second leg at home and the final at Wembley where I am hoping to watch Simon and the boys get us into the Championship.

“Good luck and come on the Pool!”

Christine Seddon, chairman of Blackpool Supporters Trust (BST), said: “Paul Corlett was known to many Blackpool fans but even those who did not know him personally are deeply saddened at this tragic story.

“As a dedicated Blackpool supporter, Paul was part of the Tangerine Army and therefore a member of the wider Blackpool FC family. Football is such a big part of any community and it is to be hoped that Paul’s family and friends can take comfort in the support and good thoughts of so many Blackpool fans.

“RIP Seasider.”

Help is at hand

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Sue Freeth, Chief Executive of Combat Stress, a charity which provides therapeutic treatment to former members of the British Armed Forces who are suffering from mental health conditions, said: “Every veteran’s death is a tragedy and our heartfelt condolences go out to Mr Corlett’s family.

“The majority of veterans make a successful transition from the military to civilian life but a small number develop mental health problems including anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“In the last decade, the number of veterans seeking help from Combat Stress has increased by 97 per cent, with more than 2,000 new veterans coming to us each year. However, we know there are more out there struggling in silence.

“We’re working closely with the Ministry of Defence, NHS and other military charities to overcome the stigma of mental health and encourage veterans to come forward.

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“Every life is precious and we want to do all we can to prevent former servicemen and women from taking their own lives. We strongly encourage them or their loved ones to call our 24-hour Helpline on 0800 138 1619 for support and advice.”

A spokesman for the Royal British Legion said: “With regards to suicide rates amongveterans, we believe prevention is key, ensuring that every veteran has access to appropriate support early, and that they know how to access this support.

“The Ministry of Defence in recent years has paid greater focus to the mental health of Regular and Reserve personnel but there are still heart-breaking stories such as this, so it’s imperative that service providers work together to provide a safety net for those at crisis point.”

A spokesman for SSAFA, the Armed Forces Charity, said: “SSAFA provides practical, emotional and financial assistance to serving personnel, veterans and their families in their hour of need. Whatever challenges the Armed Forces community are facing, they can rely on SSAFA for support.

“Whether you are in need of support or know someone who is, contact Forcesline, our free and confidential helpline. Find out more by visiting ssafa.org.uk/Forcesline.”

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