Rape-claim soldier found hanged

Congleton Guardian: In August last year the High Court ordered a fresh hearing into the death of Corporal Anne-Marie Ellement In August last year the High Court ordered a fresh hearing into the death of Corporal Anne-Marie Ellement

A Royal Military Police officer was found hanging in her barracks two years after alleging she had been raped by two soldiers, an inquest heard today.

Corporal Anne-Marie Ellement, 30, was found at Bulford Barracks near Salisbury in Wiltshire on October 9 2011.

Cpl Ellement's sister, Sharon Hardy, told the inquest in Salisbury, Wiltshire, that she had been left "absolutely devastated" by the decision by military investigators not to prosecute the two soldiers who she claimed had raped her in November 2009, while she was posted in Germany.

Mrs Hardy, 44, told the inquest that her sister rang her from Germany to tell her of the allegation.

"She was absolutely traumatised," Mrs Hardy, a married mother of four from Christchurch, Dorset, said.

Cpl Ellement returned to the UK on compassionate leave and spent Christmas with her sister and her family.

"She was devastated. She looked worn-out and she had lost weight - she looked awful," Mrs Hardy said.

"She kept a lot back because I think she was embarrassed about what happened. She was dreading going back to Germany.

"Anne-Marie was confident those soldiers would be charged and I was not going to tell a victim they may not be charged.

"She was really frightened about going back to Germany because she didn't know what to expect."

Mrs Hardy said one female soldier supplied a statement to investigators supporting Cpl Ellement's allegations but changed it after befriending the girlfriend of one of the soldiers she was accusing of rape.

"She told me that the girls had started to turn on her. She lost the support network that she thought she had when she was sent on compassionate leave," Mrs Hardy said.

"The girls were running up and down the corridor screaming 'There's the girl that cried rape', banging on her door.

"All that I could do was try and reassure her that once they were charged everything would be OK."

Mrs Hardy said her sister was "absolutely devastated" at learning the two servicemen , who are known only as Soldier A and Soldier B at the inquest, would not be charged.

"Anne-Marie was absolutely devastated. She could not believe it," she said.

"She was 110% certain what had happened to her and her being in the Royal Military Police and the fact they were not taking her allegations seriously.

"She said to me 'Justice is shit. They got away with it. They are trying to uphold the law but they have got away with it'.

"She was so strong and she believed what they did was wrong. She was not happy and she wanted justice."

An inquest in March 2012 recorded a conclusion that Cpl Ellement, originally from Bournemouth, took her own life.

But last August the High Court ordered a fresh hearing, which began today and is expected to last at least two weeks.

Mrs Hardy told the hearing, before deputy coroner for Wiltshire and Swindon Nicholas Rheinburg, that her sister became worried by the news that a former colleague from Germany was being posted to Bulford in the spring of 2011.

"It was troubling Anne-Marie what trouble this soldier could bring to Bulford," Mrs Hardy said.

"I tried to reassure Anne-Marie and Anne-Marie told me this soldier was going around saying 'There's the girl that had cried rape'."

Mrs Hardy said her sister also told her of being overworked and doing between 80 and 90 hours a week and being called in on her days off.

"She said she was sick of it, that she was tired and wanted out," she said.

"I put that down to the unit's large volume of workload."

Mrs Hardy also spoke of an incident at a rugby match between the Army and Navy at Twickenham in April 2011, at which Cpl Ellement alleged another soldier said to her in front of 100 personnel: "There's the girl that cried rape."

She said: "Anne-Marie was absolutely mortified because, as she said, none of the soldiers in her unit knew about this."

Mrs Hardy described her "disbelief" at hearing the news that her sister was dead - three days after her 30th birthday.

"When she died, my immediate thoughts were the Army, the rape, the bullying and the overwork," she told the inquest.

"I think she said something on Facebook about 'I've had enough of everything' but she didn't say anything to my face at all.

"Perhaps that was her warning sign but it didn't trigger with me."

Mrs Hardy said that her sister had several short term relationships with different men but nothing long term.

She was asked whether Cpl Ellement could have taken her own life because of the latest split.

"Absolutely not because he had a few short term relationships," Mrs Hardy said.

"Her passion in her life was her family and her animals. She was not interested in a long term relationship.

"I think she would have liked one but it never happened for her.

"He was no different to any other man."

Cpl Ellement's mother, Alexandra Barritt, said her daughter viewed the transfer to Bulford as a "start of a new life" but it changed when a former colleague from Germany joined her.

"She was very distressed about it. She was worried it would get out about what happened in Germany," she said.

Mrs Barritt said her daughter had become depressed following the alleged rape.

"It was about the allegation she made of rape," she told the hearing.

"She said there was going to be no charges and these two individuals were threatening her and saying they were going to sue her and she was very distressed about this."

Mrs Barritt said her daughter didn't feel "at all supported" by the Army after she made the rape allegations in Germany, and was bullied afterwards.

"She said she had been left alone to deal with it," Mrs Barritt said.

"She said people she had been friends with turned against her and she couldn't come out of her room because the girls outside of the room were calling her names.

"She was too scared to leave her room."

Mrs Barritt said her daughter complained to her of being overworked and had worked when she was supposed to be off sick.

"In August 2011 she was supposed to go on a course and she was very worried about that and she was given a position of higher rank.

"She spoke about a staff sergeant who was belittling and bullying her."

Mrs Barritt said her daughter wanted to leave the RMP and transfer to the Veterinary Corps.

She described her daughter's death as "absolutely devastating" and added: "Absolutely out of the blue.

"In the summer of 2011 I became very concerned about her and she seemed to be deteriorating and she had lost her spark.

"She went back on anti-depressants and was having panic attacks.

"I said to her 'you won't do anything stupid?' and she said 'shut up mum' and I didn't think anything of it."

Mrs Barritt said at the time of her death her daughter was looking forward to a holiday in the US.

The inquest heard Cpl Ellement had joined the Army in 2006 and transferred to Bulford in March 2011.

The hearing also heard that Cpl Ellement had taken an overdose of tablets prior to joining the Army, which she had declared on her application.

Cpl Ellement's father Kenneth Ellement, a former soldier, told the inquest in a statement that the alleged rape caused her a "great deal of stress".

"Anne-Marie seemed to have some welfare problems while in the Army," he said.

"I knew she was in debt and had loans for about £20,000 and was paying those off."

Mr Ellement added: "I have no idea why she would want to take her own life."

Lance Corporal Rebecca Thorpe said in a statement that Cpl Ellement had several short-term relationships, including with a married man, and could "fall in love quite quickly".

"I think she would get a bit obsessive about this and this would scare them off," she said.

L/Cpl Thorpe also said she had seen signs of self-harming on Cpl Ellement's arms.

"She said quite casually she had cut them with a knife and didn't know why and said she had been bored and sat there watching the telly.

"I thought she had cut herself in the past and didn't want to tell me. She never told me about any of her self-harming or wanting to commit suicide."

L/Cpl Thorpe described Cpl Ellement as "lacking ability" in her job.

She said: "She would not accept help and was often the cause of her own downfall."

Corporal Paul Butler told the hearing he started a brief relationship with Cpl Ellement while having problems in his marriage in late 2010.

"At the time I was having problems with my wife," he told the inquest.

"I was attracted to her and if I left my wife, I wanted to be with her."

Cpl Butler said he ended their relationship in January 2011.

"She was very upset about it but we reconciled," he said.

Captain Shane Doherty, who at the time of Cpl Ellement's death was a company sergeant major, said on two occasions he saw her tearful and spoke to her, giving her a "pep talk".

"Had I known of the previous history as regards the rape, I may have been more stringent in pushing welfare services, not to say that they were not dealing with it," Capt Doherty told the court.

He said that he only found out about the rape allegations after her death.

"I was quite shocked when I heard. It was shocking.

"No one said anything to me that she was being bullied by her chain of command or any of the NCOs."

Capt Doherty said that he found it "quite staggering" at hearing in court claims that members of the RMP were working 80 or 90 hours a week.

"I find that absolutely staggering and doubtful," he said.

Also giving evidence at the inquest was Corporal Derek Bennetts.

He played in a band with Cpl Ellement, who was a talented singer.

Cpl Bennetts said that Cpl Ellement had complained to him of being "picked upon" by a staff sergeant and also heard "derogatory terms" used to describe her.

"I heard the staff sergeant cursing out loud 'for f***s sake' to himself about Anne-Marie's work," he said.

He said that shortly before Cpl Ellement's death he was concerned that she seemed "particularly low" and was crying, so reported his concerns to a sergeant.

"I expressed my concerns that I thought she was going to do something, I mean self-harm or worse," he said.

"Because of her persona. She was so down, it was like she was broken.

"He said he would take it on board and tell the company sergeant major."

Cpl Bennetts alleged that two senior NCOs would shout at her.

"Sometimes it seemed they got a kick out of it," he said. "That's the word I would use - an awful thing to say.

"They seemed to enjoy bollocking her."

Cpl Bennetts also said that "welfare was not a priority" for the company.

"Certainly not at that time. Nothing seemed to happen," he said.

He told the inquest how he believed a break up in a relationship was the catalyst for her to take her own life.

"I think that's what tipped her over the edge," he said.

"In the suicides I have been involved in as an RMP, which has been three others, it has always been the breakdown of a relationship."

The inquest heard that since Cpl Ellement's death changes had been made to the company's working hours.

Soldiers were now not allowed to work for more than an hour after their 12-hour shift had ended.

Cpl Leigh Jarratt said Cpl Ellement would make "quite a lot of mistakes" in her work. "This was not through a lack of trying but her attention to detail," he said.

Lance Corporal Richard Cumber told the hearing that Cpl Ellement would work long hours and would often be the last to leave the office.

He said she was upset at comments a senior non-commissioned officer had posted on Facebook, which she believed was about her.

"She was quite upset about it," he said. "I showed her how to make a copy of them and put them into a Word document."

Cpl Cumber said the same senior NCO treated Cpl Ellement differently.

"When she made a mistake it was made more public," he said.

"It was bits and pieces... it was just different. When someone makes a mistake you expect to be picked up on it as otherwise you will never learn.

"At times it became too far and at times when she was going to be criticised in front of people, I want to use the word belittled but I don't know if it's the right word to use, when she was going to be criticised in front of us, and she was in charge of us, that's not the right thing to do."

A post-mortem examination found Cpl Ellement had died from hanging.

In pathologist Dr Matthew Flynn's report he noted that the word "sorry" had been written in lipstick on a mirror.

Toxicology tests found no trace of alcohol or illegal drugs but there was evidence of a therapeutic level of anti-depressants.

The inquest was adjourned until tomorrow.

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