Jonny Cole loved his job, but the trauma he suffered while carrying out his duty would eventually lead to his death, ITV News North of England correspondent Rachel Townsend reports
At the age of 19, Jonny Cole fulfilled a lifetime ambition— to join the army. It was the only thing he had ever wanted to do.
Tragically for Jonny and his family, it was army failings that would eventually lead to his death.
Jonny was described as a "bubbly" character who "everyone loved" when he joined the Rifles regiment.
He served in Northern Ireland, where he met his wife, Teresa. Then, in 2009, Jonny was deployed to Afghanistan as part of Operation Herrick 10.
It was during that tour that Jonny witnessed events that his family say left him permanently traumatised.
During one attack, when an IED exploded, five of his comrades were killed. Jonny was tasked with collecting bodies and body parts to be returned home.
Less than three weeks later, Jonny was injured in a rocket-propelled grenade attack and suffered shrapnel injuries. He was flown back to a military hospital in the UK.
Jonny’s widow Teresa told ITV News: "He came home and was completely different. He wasn’t the man I married at all. He always had a guilt over himself that his friend was lying on top of him and he was killed and he always said that he should have died not him."
Over the course of the next few years, Jonny’s mental health deteriorated and he attempted to take his own life.
But an army doctor didn’t diagnose him with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Sophie Cartwright, the coroner at Jonny’s inquest described this as an "obvious error" and a "missed opportunity."
Ms Cartwright concluded: "What was highly regrettable for Jonny Cole was that he left the army without a formal diagnosis of PTSD. In my judgement, this was a failure for Jonny Cole."
Over the course of the next few years, Jonny began drinking heavily, he had money problems, and tried to take his own life on multiple occasions.
His widow said: "He was saying, 'Teresa, I’m sorry, I need help' and I’d say, 'I know, I know'."
In 2012, three years after his Afghan tour, Jonny was offered psychological trauma therapy which he took up, but they were stopped after just eight sessions.
Jonny was found dead in August 2018 in parkland near his home in Derbyshire.
Following the conclusion of her husband’s inquest, Teresa Cole said: "The whole inquest process has been a long journey.
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"It has been an emotional, traumatic and exhausting process which has greatly increased the distress of the family. It could have been avoided if Jonny had received the correct diagnosis and treatment after his tour of Afghanistan.”
She added: "The army failed on every level and they neglected Jonny at every level. That’s why there needs to be changes.
"Veterans need more support. I would never let anyone I know, any family or my child join the military because of what they’ve done to my husband.”
In a statement sent to ITV News, the Ministry of Defence didn’t address specific criticisms but instead told us: "Our thoughts are with the family of Jonathan Cole who died 5 years after he left the army."
The coroner said she would write to the Ministry of Defence recommending improvements in mental health care.
Ms Cartwright will also deliver a Prevention of Future Death Report to both the MoD and to the Nottingham Health Care Foundation NHS Trust who were responsible for his treatment towards the end of his life.