My son was a 'victim of war', Terry Butcher says as inquest hears of soldier's struggle with PTSD and drugs

Telegraph Reporters
Chris Butcher fought in Afghanistan 

Former England captain Terry Butcher has said his son was a "victim of war" after an inquest heard he struggled with drugs following a tour of Afghanistan.

Butcher, 59, accused the Army of failing his former soldier son who died after battling post traumatic stress disorder.

An inquest heard how his son Christopher, 35, had turned to alcohol and drugs after being discharged from the Army in April 2015 due to the mental health condition.

He choked back tears as described his son's death as "unnecessary" and claimed that Britain's armed forces had "discarded" their responsibilities' by failing to properly help veterans.

Butcher, who played in three World Cups, said he wanted his son to be remembered as a "hero" who had become "a victim of war" and had "paid the ultimate price."

Terry Butcher spoke movingly about his son  Credit: Rob Howarth

The inquest heard how Christopher, a former Captain in the Royal Artillery, had been haunted by nightmares and flashbacks about his comrades and civilians being killed in Afghanistan.

Butcher found the body of his son wedged between the bed and the wall in his bedroom when he went to check on him on the morning of October 16 last year at his home in Bawdsey near Woodbridge, Suffolk.

A post mortem failed to find his cause of death, but found that he had an enlarged heart which could have been caused by drug use, the inquest in Ipswich heard.

Toxicology tests revealed he had non-lethal levels of cocaine and heroin in his body as well as prescription drugs which he had been taking for several years. A makeshift crack pipe in a sunglasses case was also found in his room.

Suffolk assistant coroner Dr Dan Sharpstone recorded a conclusion that he had died from an enlarged heart due to uncertain causes with a background of drug use and PTSD.

 Christopher Butcher was discharged from the army  Credit: PA

The inquest heard that Christopher had been living for a year with his parents after splitting from his wife Laura due to his mental health.

Butcher who attended the hearing with Laura and his father Leonard, 81, said: "Our armed forces have a duty to look after their people before, during and after active service, but this responsibility has been discarded too easily which has resulted in a growing number of our veterans turning to anything that might help including alcohol, drugs and suicide as a means of alleviating the flashbacks and nightmares

"Christopher had a glittering career in the Army ahead of him, a loving wife and dreams of having children of his own. His unnecessary death has deprived us of a wonderful son, husband, brother and grandson, friend and comrade

"He touched the hearts of all who met him, As a family we ask that he be remembered as a hero who so proudly served his country and who paid the ultimate price."

He added: "We also ask that our country considers, what is the right support that should be provided to help our heroes and victims of war?"

Coroner Dr Sharpstone said: "When people serve in the armed forces they give everything in the defence of our country, and this may result n death or serious injury. However it can also result in PTSD.

"I suspect he was haunted every day and night. People with PTSD may turn to illicit drugs to get at least a temporary respite. They are ultimately casualties of war deserving our sympathy, gratitude and respect."