Supervisor did not know of soldier’s threat to end his life, inquest told

·3-min read

A special forces soldier’s threat to take his own life was not passed down his chain of command to his supervising sergeant-major, an inquest heard.

Corporal Alexander Tostevin had travelled to London for a weekend six months before his death and used a military credit card to purchase cocaine and hire a prostitute.

He told his commanding officer he had intended to take his own life after the three-day binge in September 2017.

But the inquest heard that threat was not passed on to his new unit sergeant-major after he was transferred to non-operational duties following the incident.

Alexander Tostevin
Alexander Tostevin had served with the Royal Marines and the Special Boat Service during his career (Family handout/PA)

The 28-year-old, from Guernsey, was serving with the Poole-based Special Boat Service when he died at his home in March 2018.

The inquest in Bournemouth heard that after he failed to report for duty, his commanding officer and another special forces’ colleague found him at a friend’s home in London.

They said Cpl Tostevin broke down in front of them and explained the pressure he had been under, with a court case, spiralling debts, a relationship break-up and increased drinking.

Cpl Tostevin’s unit commanding officer, known as Soldier E, told the hearing what he had said about the weekend in London.

“He said he was going to enjoy himself for three days and then, I think I talk about it in my statement, he was going to end his life at the end of that, having had a good time,” he said.

After the incident he was placed on the unit’s at-risk register, when he was moved from his regular unit to the welfare/recovery unit and informed of likely disciplinary action.

Soldier M, the sergeant-major of that unit, said he was never told Cpl Tostevin had considered taking his own life.

Brendan Allen, area coroner for Dorset, asked the witness: “The evidence that we have heard is that Alex explained that he had the intention to take his life while in London, that he had purchased (name removed) and was considering taking that.

Cpl Alexander Tostevin
Cpl Alexander Tostevin was facing disciplinary action at the time of his death in March 2018 (Family handout/PA).

“He had spent the money on the government card in advance of doing so. Was that information you were aware of?”

Soldier M replied: “The only information I was aware of was he used the military card and numerous people within London had tried to locate him, which they had successfully.”

Mr Allen asked: “You are saying you were not aware Alex had expressed suicidal intent or ideation after that incident?”

Soldier M replied: “I didn’t know he had been suicidal.”

He went on to explain there were regular checks on Cpl Tostevin while living on the base, and they would exchange text messages last thing at night and in the morning.

“I told him my door was always open, later on we swapped telephone numbers. If I did not receive that text I would inform the duty officer,” he said.

In January 2018 it was decided Cpl Tostevin was ready to return to his unit and at that point would come off the at-risk register.

He had been due to join his colleagues overseas for training, but following deterioration in his mental health in February, a decision was made that he would not go.

The inquest has heard no documentary evidence has been found to show whether Cpl Tostevin had been put back on the at-risk register.

Kirsten Heaven, representing Cpl Tostevin’s family, asked an officer known only as Soldier D: “Should he have been put on the unit at-risk register in February?”

The witness, who was Cpl Tostevin’s unit adjutant, replied: “Yes.”

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