Hartlepool veteran was under influence of drugs at time of suicide, inquest hears

family photo
Alan Forcer was discharged from the army after a distressing tour of Kosovo. Credit: Family photo

A veteran who took his own life after a battle with post-traumatic stress disorder was under the influence of drugs at the time of his death, a coroner has ruled.

Alan Forcer, formerly of the Household Cavalry, joined the Army when he was just 16. Serving in Northern Ireland, he was discharged at the age of 18 after a distressing tour of Kosovo.

The 40-year-old father-of-three had been receiving support from the veterans' charity Combat Stress but was told three months before his death that the service was being redesigned.

He was reported missing from his current partner's home in Hartlepool in May 2020. His body was later found by police in woodland near Stockton on Tees

A post-mortem examination found that Mr Forcer had cannabis, cocaine and a trace of ketamine in his system at the time of his death.

Coroner Clare Bailey recorded a narrative conclusion rather than suicide.

She said: “Taking into account the level of drugs in his system, I cannot say on the balance of probabilities that Alan intended to take his own life. It is likely the presence of drugs impaired his cognitive and decision-making abilities.”

In a narrative conclusion, she said Mr Forcer was a military veteran who suffered from PTSD and that he hanged himself “whilst under the influence of drugs”.

The inquest opened in October but was adjourned so that evidence could be heard from a final witness - David Shaw, who works for an NHS signposting service which helps veterans to get support with their mental issues.

Mr Shaw had worked with Mr Forcer in the months leading up to his death, when he shared issues including depression and anxiety.

However, he said the former soldier had not presented himself to be in a state of crisis at any point when they met and that Mr Forcer was aware of the support available, as he was looking to join a course for ex-servicemen working with horses.

The coroner said Cleveland Police, which had led the search for Mr Forcer after his disappearance, would discuss with Mr Forcer’s ex-wife Claire Lilly methods of raising the alarm for veterans who could be in crisis.

Ms Lilly, who had a son with Mr Forcer, had previously told the inquest that she informed the police that her he had a breakdown in his current relationship, that he might be under the influence of drugs, had come out of trauma therapy and had tried to take his own life previously.

She said: “He had post-traumatic stress disorder. He was high risk, basically, and needed to be found.”

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