Private Joseph Berry
Private Joseph Berry died on 22 February 2020 (Picture: Parachute Regiment/Facebook).
Army

Paratrooper took his own life in 'unexpected and impulsive act', coroner rules

The coroner said Private Joseph Berry "gave no indication to anybody what he was going to do or why".

Private Joseph Berry
Private Joseph Berry died on 22 February 2020 (Picture: Parachute Regiment/Facebook).

A young soldier took his own life in an "unexpected and impulsive act" that nobody could have predicted, a coroner has concluded.

Private Joseph Berry, who was serving with A Company of the 2nd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment in Kabul, Afghanistan, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound on 22 February 2020, the inquest into his death heard.

Earlier that day, the 21-year-old, known as Joe, had received a telling-off from his Sergeant Major over what others regarded as a minor infraction but left him teary-eyed, Warrington Coroner's Court was told.

Shortly afterwards, he sent a worrying text message to colleagues and indicated a location in the camp base where he could be found.

His Glock 9mm pistol was found at his side along with a note for his family, which was not made public at the hearing but witnesses said indicated his intention to take his life.

It also made no complaint of bullying or anything "untoward from the Army side", the inquest heard.

Earlier, the hearing was told that Pte Berry had had a problem with his SA80 rifle.

He went to see Lance Corporal Scott Goodenough at the base armoury for help to clear a blocked muzzle on the weapon, and others lent a hand.

But the armoury was next door to the office of Sergeant Major Christopher Groves, who heard a "commotion" outside, "stumbled" across the problem and started asking questions.

LCpl Goodenough said Pte Berry was "too honest" and admitted he had broken Army rules by unloading the weapon himself, alone and unsupervised instead of in a designated area as directed by orders "from on high".

Sgt Major Groves took Pte Berry into his office and closed the door.

LCpl Goodenough said Pte Berry then came out of the office "with his tail between his legs" and "looking a bit sheepish".

Sgt Major Groves told the hearing he spoke to Pte Berry and, because he became upset, told him: "We all make mistakes", adding that he would deal with the matter later and telling him to get on with his duties.

Shortly afterwards, Pte Berry sent a text message to his friend, Lance Corporal Josh Brown, detailing a specific location on the base and reading: "Thanks for being such a good friend. I wish I was better in everything. Love you man."

    Sgt Major Groves and others dashed to the scene and called a medical officer and the padre but Pte Berry was already dead. He had no alcohol or drugs in his body and no record of any welfare issues while in the forces.

    The day before, Pte Berry had told his mother, Lisa Snow, he was "exceptionally happy" and was making plans for his future.

    His father, RAF Squadron Leader Nick Berry, said he had "beaten himself up" wondering if he had missed any signs, but said: "There was nothing there."

    Senior Coroner for Cheshire Alan Moore replied: "Sometimes there isn't."

    Concluding the inquest, Mr Moore added: "It was really such an unexpected and impulsive act.

    "Joe gave no indication to anybody what he was going to do or why.

    "Nobody could have predicted what was going to happen and nobody could have done anything to anticipate or to prevent it.

    "Not Joe's mum and dad, not his mates in 2 Para or military chain of command, and not company Sergeant Major Groves."

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