Soldier, 18, hanged himself in his barracks hours after drinking three bottles of Buckfast

Highlander Alistair McLeish, was found hanged on July 3, 2018

Highlander Alistair McLeish, was found hanged on July 3, 2018

Highlander Alistair McLeish, was found hanged on July 3, 2018

A teenage soldier hanged himself at his barracks after binge drinking Buckfast, an inquest heard today. 

Highlander Alistair McLeish, a member of 4th Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland, was found in his room at the Catterick Garrison in north Yorkshire when he failed to turn out for parade. 

The 18-year-old had excelled during his physical training and had been singled out by officers as ‘one to watch’ and held up as an ‘example’ of how to work. 

His heartbroken mother today said she ‘cannot come to any logical conclusion’ as to why he would take his own life. 

The teenager joined the Army straight from school – following in his father and grandfather’s footsteps – and had been stationed in Catterick since December 2017, the inquest heard.    

His mother Karen McLeish said her son ‘appeared to love’ his role in Catterick.

Fellow Highlander Dylan Rollo described Alistair as his ‘best friend’. 

He said he had ‘appeared to be a happy, normal guy who was one of the lads’, adding that he had not seen any evidence of deeper mental health issues.

He said the pair of them bought Buckfast from the garrison NAAFI and drank together in his room all afternoon on July 1 last year, until Alistair left to say he was going for a pizza. 

Major Frederic McNair, company commander of the 4th Scots, was in command of Alistair and one of the first responders on the scene at around 9am on July 3. 

CPR was attempted but Alistair was pronounced dead by paramedics at 9.22am. 

A third bottle of the drink was found by his bedside, and a toxicology report found alcohol levels of 222mg per 100ml of blood in his system. The drink drive limit is 80mg.

Highlander McLeish, a member of 4th Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland, was found in his room at the Catterick Garrison in north Yorkshire (pictured)

Highlander McLeish, a member of 4th Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland, was found in his room at the Catterick Garrison in north Yorkshire (pictured)

Highlander McLeish, a member of 4th Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland, was found in his room at the Catterick Garrison in north Yorkshire (pictured)

Highlander McLeish had been given July 2 off work as he had recently returned from a 10-day trip to Paderborn in Germany.

His movements between leaving Highlander Rollo on the evening of July 1 and being found dead more than a day later were still unknown, with colleagues wrongly assuming he had gone home to Selkirk in the Scottish Borders.

Highlander Rollo said: ‘We drunk about two bottles each. Alistair never mentioned anything was troubling him.’   

Giving evidence today, Major McNair described the youngster as a ‘big character’.

He added: ‘He had just joined the company boxing team and had been picked out as one to watch. He was someone who would play hard but work had too.

‘He had some minor disciplinary issues where he turned up after having a few drinks with friends the night before. There were two instances where he turned up smelling of booze. I took him to the side and spoke to him about it.

‘It was not anything I was too worried about, it was nothing unusual. I had no concerns about him at all.

‘He had a good group of mates and was always someone who engaged very well, that’s what I saw of Alistair as a soldier.’

Major McNair said a month before his death Alistair had performed so well during a physical exercise that he was singled out in front of the whole company as ‘an example’ of how to work. 

Alistair had performed so well during a physical exercise that he was singled out in front of the whole company as 'an example' of how to work

Alistair had performed so well during a physical exercise that he was singled out in front of the whole company as 'an example' of how to work

Alistair had performed so well during a physical exercise that he was singled out in front of the whole company as ‘an example’ of how to work

A post mortem concluded that the cause of death was hanging.  

Detective Sergeant Scott Nugent of North Yorkshire Police said there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding Alistair’s death, no suicide note was found and no messages on his phone indicating he had any intention to end his life.

He said although there had been a fall out between the soldier and his girlfriend, they had made up and were in a ‘blossoming relationship.’ 

Checks of his mobile phone found they messaged each other 50 to 100 times a day. 

In a statement read out at Harrogate Coroner’s Court, Mrs McLeish said: ‘We are totally distraught as a family. We cannot come to a logical reason as to why he took his life. He appeared to love the Army.

‘We were in regular contact and I never picked up on any significant problems. He appeared to have friends and there was never any suggestion he was bullied or anything like that.’ 

Addressing the teenager’s parents, Coroner Rob Turnbull, who made a ruling of suicide, said: ‘You said he loved the Army, and from what I have heard there is not reason to suggest otherwise.

‘It is not my job to ascertain the motive, but I am guessing you would like very much to know. Whether he had been ruminating on things is not known, but there is no apparent motive for this tragic incident.’

  • For confidential support call the Samaritans on 116123 or visit a local Samaritans branch, or see samaritans.org for details. 

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