Inquest into deaths Ballykinler soldiers to call 50 witnesses

Ballykinler base near Downpatrick
Ballykinler base near Downpatrick

Up to 50 witnesses could be called to give evidence at an inquest into the deaths of two soldiers at Ballykinler, a coroner heard on Friday.

Lance Corporal James Ross, 30, from Leeds, died at the Co Down base in December 2012 while Rifleman Darren Mitchell, 20, from London, was found dead at the same barracks two months later.

Both soldiers were members of the 2nd Battalion The Rifles who had served in Afghanistan.

Their families have raised concerns around post-traumatic stress disorder since their deaths by hanging.

At a preliminary inquest hearing in Belfast, coroner Joe McCrisken heard that eight other soldiers – including five who are still serving – are known to have attempted self-harm or self-harmed at the base.

Linda Ketcher, the mother of Corporal Ross, attended the hearing and told the coroner her family was hopeful the other soldiers involved in the self-harming incidents will give evidence.

Commenting on concerns raised about the mental well-being of those involved, Ms Ketcher said she had no desire “to take people back to a place that is upsetting,” but added: “The information is important to my family.”

Corporal Ross’s brother, Sam Moore, was also in court. He said the family was happy to respect the soldiers’ anonymity but “need to know what’s happened”.

A lawyer for the MOD said there were additional concerns that the dissemination of information, even if heavily redacted, could lead to the identification of the troops.

“The MOD has a duty of care to these soldiers,” he said.

Family barrister Karen Quinlivan described the MOD delay in disclosing some of the required material as “unacceptable”.

The inquest was adjourned until a further preliminary hearing on December 15.