Widow And Sister Instruct Medical Negligence Lawyers To Support Them Through Inquest Process
The grieving family of a soldier who died at a North Yorkshire Army base hope the start of the inquest process will provide them with answers regarding his sudden death.
Nicki Hart, originally from Ton Pentre, Rhondda Valley, served with the 4th Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland and was based at Catterick Garrison. He was found dead in his barracks in February this year, aged 33. He had been suffering from mental health problems, his family said.
Nicki is believed to be one of several soldiers to have died at the base in recent years.
Following his death, Nicki’s devastated family including his wife Sara, 36, and his sister Jamie Hart-Dobbs, 37, instructed expert medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to help investigate and support them through the inquest process.
A pre-inquest review hearing took place in North Yorkshire on 25 October. A full inquest will take place at a later date.
Expert Opinion“The past eight months have been incredibly difficult for Nicki’s family who are understandably struggling to come to terms with losing him in such a tragic way.
In addition, the number of deaths and incidents of self-harm reported at the Catterick Army base in recent years is deeply worrying, and Sara, Jamie and the rest of the family continue to have many questions around Nicki’s death.
While the inquest process will no doubt be very hard for them, it’s a major milestone in being able to support the family. We’re determined to help provide them with a fair hearing and establish the answers they deserve. It’s also vital that, if the during the inquest process any issues are identified, action is taken to improve the care and safety of soldiers in the future.”
Ayse Ince, Medical Negligence Lawyer
In August 2021, one of Nicki’s friends, based at Catterick Garrison, took his life.
At the time, Nicki was working with the Scots recruitment team in Inverness, where he lived with Sara and their children. However, he returned to Catterick Garrison after recruitment ended.
Following this, Nicki’s family said he began struggling with his mental health. He underwent a medical review in September 2021. Around the same time, he attempted suicide.
In late January this year, Nicki was referred to the Department of Community Mental Health, which provide military centres dedicated to treating serving Armed Forces personnel.
Nicki attended an appointment with the mental health team on 3 February, with a follow-up planned for four days later. However, he was found dead in his room on 5 February 2022.
He had been married to Sara for nearly two years, but together for nine years. They have three children together– Aidan, 17, six-year-old Kian and Sophia, aged six months.
Sara said: “The past few months have been the worst of my life. Not only have I lost my husband, but my children have lost the most loving and gentle dad. It breaks my heart to know that they have to move forward with their lives without him, and he didn’t even get to meet Sophia.
“After Nicki lost his friend, his mental state went downhill rapidly.
“I’ll never forget getting the phone call to tell me he had died. It felt like my whole world had crumbled from under me and I didn’t know how to deal with it myself, let alone tell our children. Our grief is made worse by the many questions we have surrounding Nicki’s death and whether more could have been done to help him.
“To find out that Nicki was one of several men to have died at this specific Army base in such a short timeframe is truly shocking.
“I know hearing evidence about what happened to Nicki will be incredibly difficult, but it’s something I need to do to honour his memory and get the answers we’re looking for.
“We also urge that any issues found within the Army are taken seriously and improvements are made to help prevent other families from suffering like we have.
“Sadly, there’s still a taboo around mental health, particularly in men, and we hope that sharing our story will raise awareness. If it helps just one person, it’s been worthwhile.”
Earlier this year, a freedom of information request submitted to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) asked for details relating to suicides and attempted suicides at the Catterick Garrison base.
In a written response, the MoD confirmed between 1 November, 2019, and 15 February, 2022, “there have been two coroner confirmed suicides among UK Army…based at Catterick Garrison.” In addition, ‘there were a further four deaths…where the mechanism of injury suggests suicide’ but are currently awaiting an inquest.
It also confirmed that between 1 November, 2019, and 31 October, 2021, “there were 94 UK army personnel at Catterick Garrison with at least one incident of self-harm recorded.”