03 May 2006

RUC wife testifies in court case


TUESDAY 02/05/2006 17:03:11

Via Newshound

The wife of an RUC officer has given a graphic account of the mental torture they both endured as a result of him witnessing some of the worst atrocities of the Troubles.

"It was like living with a time bomb and waiting for the next explosion," said the 54 year-old woman.

"I felt I was a punchbag for all his experiences of lifting dead bodies."

She frequently broke down in tears while giving evidence in the High Court in Belfast in the action in which over 5,000 members of the RUC/PSNI are claiming compensation for trauma they suffered during 30 years of terrorism.

The hearing began last November and the evidence is expected to finish at the end of this month.

Lawyers will then make wirtten and oral submissions to Mr Justice Coghlin whose decision is not expected until the end of the year.

If the action against current Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde is successful the government will have to meet a compensation bill over over £100 million.

The officers - two-thirds of them retired - have accused successive police chiefs of negligence by failing in their duty of care by not providing adqeuate facilities to tackle mental injuries including post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression.

The woman, who is not being named, cried as she told of the nightmare of sharing her life with a man she said was too proud to admit that he had "cracked up" because of what he had come through.

Her husband, who retired on medical grounds in 1997 after 22 years service, had survived a bomb attack and seen colleagues murdered.

Some were close friends and he was detailed to go to the scenes of their deaths and assist in gathering body parts to be put into plastic bags.

One of the murder victims was a young policewoman whose severed hand he picked up with her engagement ring sparkling.

"I used to dread him coming home," said the woman. "He was having constant nightmares. He was like a caged animal.

"The tempers were ferocious, smashing things. I would have the dinner on the table and he would lash everything on the floor when something set him off.

"He was wrecking the house and smashing dishes as he was completely out of control.

"The tempers would last about 15 minutes and then he was exhausted and would break down crying. One minute he was a monster and the next he was crying like an abandoned child.

"The day he came home and said he had a black-out and nearly killed someone I knew that day he was not going back to the police.

"He was a mess and had the look of a man who was worn out. He was just pitiful, the man was exhausted. He was in a black hole and was really depressed."

The woman said she was glad when her husband finally left the police and thought he would get better.

"But he felt worthless as he just loved the police and felt discarded," she said.

He tried a franchise operation but lost £30,000 and also worked as a barman and store detective.

"He just couldn`t cope because he was very aggressive," she said.

"To this day he is extremely agitated and you can`t predict what is going to rile him. His mother died two years ago and he did not shed a tear.

"When I remarked on this he said death meant nothing to him as he had seen too much dying."

The woman said her husband was now a lot calmer after receiving psychiatric treatment.

"He is not as explosive and is battling and trying to cope," she said.

"He is a proud man and finds it hard to admit that he has an illness."

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