Press Release – 4th November 2022

Ben Riches, a 30 year old Army Veteran, who served both in Iraq 2008 and then in Afghanistan in 2010, was found hanging at his home address on 11 April 2019 only 20 days after being pulled from the sea at Fleetwood Beach following an attempt on his life.

Ben joined the army in 2005 aged 16. He was deployed to Iraq on 15 November 2007, aged 18. During this tour he faced several life-threatening actions and hostile engagements including being a victim of a roadside bomb, an incident which eventually led to hearing loss and his medical discharge in 2014.

He was then deployed to Afghanistan on 15 April 2010 as part of Operation Herric 12. This deployment was particularly traumatic as a number of his friends were killed during this tour. Both tours appeared to have a lasting impact on Ben and his family were vocal with the MOD about their concerns about his mental health.

Ben was medically discharged on 9 June 2014 due to his hearing failing to meet the required standard. The following year there was a fire at Ben’s house where he was badly burned and suffered life changing injuries.

From 2018 onwards Ben’s mental health appeared to deteriorate and there were numerous incidents where he was detained by the police under their s136 powers under the Mental Health Act, thereafter being discharged following assessment by mental health professionals due to them linking his self-harming behaviours to alcohol misuse.

In 2019 Ben made a number of attempts to take his own life. Approximately a month before he died, Ben told his brother how he would have nightmares from Iraq and Afghanistan and that he “drank to forget”.

On 8 March Ben attempted suicide in the sea in Fleetwood. He had to be pulled from the water by a lifeboat and taken to A&E by the police on a Section 136. He was then discharged by the mental health team without follow up. 14 days later on 22 March Ben put messages on Facebook stating that he was going to walk into the sea. He was found by the police in a distressed state having entered the water. He was again taken under Section 136 to A&E. Whilst in the police van he attempted to hang himself in the back of the van. He was assessed and discharged by the mental health services but there was an urgent referral made to the Single Point of Access, a referral triage system. However it would appear that the email address for the referral process was no longer in service.

By the time of his death he received no further contact or assessment by mental health services.

On 11 April 2019 20 days after being pulled from the sea a second time, he told friends he had been in the army with via a Whatsapp group that he wanted to kill himself. Although they alerted the police by the time that officers gained entry to his home he was found unresponsive. He was taken to A&E but following attempts to resuscitate Ben he was sadly pronounced dead.

The Inquest into Ben’s death will explore his care from the community mental health services and in particular the management of his increasing risk in March 2019.

Gemma Vine, specialist inquest solicitor at Ison Harrison solicitors, commented:

“Ben’s family would like the inquest into his tragic death to raise awareness around the availability of mental health support for Armed Forces veterans who suffer trauma during service.

“We are keen to ensure the various factors at play when a veteran takes their own life are fully considered during the inquest and that this information is accurately fed into the Government’s study The National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Safety in Mental Health (NCISH) suicide in former service personnel of the UK armed forces*. Without this vital information, there will not be sufficient evidence to identify trends and needs so that deaths can be prevented in the future and cases such as Ben’s can be dealt with before it is too late.”

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