Army veteran who served in same regiment as Prince Harry hanged himself after suffering from PTSD caused by death of his serviceman brother in Afghanistan, inquest hears
- Nigel Hawkins died by suicide after his brother Alex was killed in a Taliban blast
- Mr Hawkins, 34, had PTSD after death of brother Lance Corporal Alex Hawkins
- Lance Corporal Nigel Hawkins, from Norfolk, served in Prince Harry’s regiment
- His mental health deteriorated and he told GP he was suicidal days before dying
- But the father-of-two’s case downgraded from ‘urgent’ facing a seven week wait
- For free, confidential support contact Samaritans on 116 123 or visit their website
Nigel Hawkins, 34, struggled to cope and even blamed himself after his older brother, Lance Corporal Alex Hawkins, was killed in a Taliban blast in 2007.
The mental health of Mr Hawkins, originally from Dareham, Norfolk, further deteriorated during Covid lockdowns as he struggled with mounting debts due to self-employment.
His relationship with his new girlfriend then broke down which proved to be the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’.
The inquest heard that in the days before his death Mr Hawkins sought help through his GP as he was feeling suicidal before he died on April 7 this year.
But an administration blunder meant that the father-of-two’s case was downgraded from urgent to routine.
Instead of being seen by mental health specialists within days, the error meant he faced a wait of up to seven weeks.
Lance Corporal Nigel Hawkins (pictured with his daughter in 2016), 34, took his own life after suffering with PTSD caused by the Taliban’s killing of his older brother in Afghanistan
Mr Hawkins’ older brother Lance Corporal Alex Hawkins (pictured) died, aged 22, when his vehicle was blown up by a homemade bomb during a routine patrol in Sangin in 2007
During that time Mr Hawkins went to stay with his estranged wife, Lucy, and his children at their home in Bridport, Dorset.
But while Mrs Hawkins was at work and the children at school, the former serviceman hanged himself.
The hearing heard he had spoken to his girlfriend earlier that day hoping for a reconciliation but she told him she would not be waiting for him when he returned home to Alton, Hampshire.
She later called his ex-wife at work and told her Mr Hawkins had said he wanted to kill himself.
Mrs Hawkins tried to call him but got no response and found him when she got home on April 6 this year.
An investigation was carried out by Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust into how Mr Hawkins’ case came to be downgraded.
Investigating officer Nick Cicutti told the inquest staff shortages meant admin staff were pulled onto covering reception and referral appointment letters were delayed in being sent out.
The senior nurses that made the decision to downgrade his referral to routine did not know this and said had they known it would have changed their decision.
Mr Cicutti admitted that having a date for an appointment could have been beneficial to Mr Hawkins so not knowing may have contributed to his low mood.
He apologised to the family and said: ‘There were gaps in our care, they shouldn’t have happened. I apologise unreservedly on our part and hope we can learn from those mistakes and not do them again.’
Speaking after the inquest, Mr Hawkins’ mother Jan told of her anger at the fact he was let down.
She said: ‘I feel angry, sad and totally devastated. Nigel loved making people laugh, he loved his children and was a very proud dad.
‘He was the sort of lad who would help anyone who needed it but when he needed help it didn’t come. People who said they could help him didn’t. He needed a lifeline, a promise of help and support not ‘oh he can wait’.
‘So many young men struggle to keep going and there are increasing numbers who are so desperate that they can only see one way out.
‘We are proud of our boys and to lose them both is more that I can bear.’
Nigel Hawkins (front centre) on parade during Chatsworth Country Fair in 2008
The death of Alex (pictured with his wife) death hit his brother hard. His mother later said that he blamed himself because he couldn’t say ‘good luck’ to him before he went on the fateful tour of Afghanistan
Mr Hawkins joined the army in 2005. He became a lance Corporal and served for 10 years in the Blues and Royals Regiment, the same regiment as Prince Harry.
His older brother Alex served at the same time but in the Royal Anglian Regiment. He died, aged 22, when his vehicle was blown up by a homemade bomb during a routine patrol in Sangin in 2007.
His death hit his brother hard. His mother later said that he blamed himself because he couldn’t say ‘good luck’ to him before he went on the fateful tour of Afghanistan.
Mr Hawkins, a self-employed transport supervisor, was later diagnosed with PTSD by a counsellor who said the condition was caused by his brother’s death.
His mental health deteriorated from 2020 and came to a head on March 11 this year when he went to hospital having taken an overdose.
He discharged himself before he was seen by the mental health team but contacted his GP practice in Alton five days later asking for help.
The Bournemouth inquest heard his doctor made a referral to the mental health community team stating Mr Hawkins should be seen within seven days.
He should have been notified by letter of an appointment date within 48 hours but due to the staffing issues, his was not sent until April 7.
Mr Hawkins had also spoken to his sister, Nicki Langley-Stevens, who worked for the MoD and is a mental health first aider, and she put him in touch with the military veterans charity PTSD Resolution.
An appointment was made for April 7 – the day after he killed himself.
Although Mr Hawkins had separated from his wife they remained friendly and he showed up unexpectedly at her home at 5am on Tuesday, April 5.
She told the hearing: ‘He had just turned up before but never that early in the morning. He said he was angry with everybody apart from myself and the children but he wouldn’t explain any more.
‘My son had a bug so I had already spoken to work and told them I wasn’t coming in. We spent all day with him, he bought the children a new fish each, he was fine, it was just a normal day.’
She said in the early hours of the morning he had spoken about his appointment on Thursday and made plans for the weekend with the children.
She said when she left for work on the Wednesday Mr Hawkins was still asleep.
The Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust has since recruited more staff since the incident and better communication had been put in place to prevent any future issues.
Dorset area coroner Brendan Allen said he was satisfied he did not need to make a prevention of future deaths report as measures had been put in place to address what happened.
He recorded a verdict of suicide.
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