A CORONER has called on the Ministry of Defence to review its care for vulnerable soldiers after he ruled that bullying, the “lingering” mental effects of an alleged double rape, “work-related despair” and a romantic break-up were all factors in the death of a soldier who killed herself in an army barracks.
Nicholas Rheinberg concluded that Corporal Anne-Marie Ellement took her own life at Bulford Barracks in Wiltshire, two years after she alleged that two soldiers raped her while she was stationed in Germany.
But Mr Rheinberg said at the inquest in Salisbury that, although the care given to Cpl Ellement in the aftermath of the allegation had been of “high quality”, the transfer of information when she returned to the UK had been “unforgivably bad”.
He said he would be recommending to the MoD that it review its suicide vulnerability risk assessment procedures and ensure that medical personnel are regularly given refresher training.
In a statement read outside court, Cpl Ellement’s family said they welcomed the coroner’s conclusions and recommendations. Her sister, Sharon Hardy, said: “The coroner has confirmed what we have always known – that Anne-Marie was treated appallingly and let down by the army.
“She was never able to recover from the allegation of rape she made in Germany.
“She then suffered bullying by the army and was subjected to unacceptable work practices.
“Victims of sexual abuse in the army need proper support, which the coroner has recognised, and we are delighted with his recommendations.”
Cpl Ellement, 30, was found dead at Bulford Barracks near Salisbury in Wiltshire on 9 October, 2011.
The three-week inquest heard that Cpl Ellement alleged she had been raped by two soldiers in November 2009, while she was posted in Germany but had been left “absolutely devastated” by the decision taken by military investigators not to prosecute them. Mr Rheinberg said: “It is not the function of this inquest to make a determination whether Anne-Marie was raped, that may be for another court to determine.
“Nevertheless I find as fact that Anne-Marie believed she was raped and was deeply affected by what for her was a deeply humiliating experience.”
He explained that although Cpl Ellement was placed on the army’s “sexual vulnerability risk assessment register”, this information was not transferred to her medical professionals when she was brought to the UK.
Following the inquest, Brigadier John Donnelly, director of personnel services for the MoD, said: “The army deeply regrets the tragic death of Cpl Anne-Marie Ellement and although there were aspects of her care that were praised, I want to apologise to her family for the failures that the coroner has identified.
“This second inquest has been an extremely thorough investigation by Her Majesty’s coroner and Anne-Marie’s family has shown great dignity throughout.”