Tragic death of young ex-soldier

Simon Wilcock (left) and his brother Adam Wilcock.
Simon Wilcock (left) and his brother Adam Wilcock.

A 24-year-old former army soldier who served in Iraq and lost four friends in Afghanistan has died following a suspected drugs overdose.

Simon Wilcock, described as “a real character, the life and soul of the party” by his grieving mum, fell into a spiral of depression after he broke his ankle and was unable to fly out with the Royal Dragoon Guards to Afghanistan.

Left at home and battling depression, the dad-of-one from Grasmere Drive, Bentham, got involved with the wrong crowd and was booted out of the army after getting caught with drugs in Morecambe.

Simon’s mum Beverley Wilcock said her son had seen disturbing scenes on a peacekeeping tour in Iraq in 2007, including trying to save the life of a five-year-old Iraqi girl who was shot through the head.

And the loss of his four friends in Afghanistan following his injury in March 2011 had left him devastated.

He was found dead in a house on Hillside Road, Low Bentham, shortly before midnight on January 5.

Although a post-mortem examination was inconclusive and toxicology tests are awaited police believe Simon may have taken drugs.

He grew up in Brookhouse and attended Caton St Paul’s CE Primary School and Queen Elizabeth School in Kirkby Lonsdale before joining the Royal Dragoon Guards.

Ms Wilcock, who is separated from Simon’s dad Nigel, said: “Everything went wrong for Simon.

“He was supposed to go to Afghanistan with his brother Adam, who was also in the Army, and he was going to be in charge of his troop.

“But then he broke his ankle while dancing in the pub. He had plates installed and was on crutches.

“He started getting depressed because he felt like he had let his mates down and he was even more devastated when four of them died, including his best friend.

“He started spending his afternoons in the pub and ended up getting caught up with the wrong crowd.”

Ms Wilcock added that Simon was kicked out of the Army after an incident during a night out in Morecambe in May 2011 ended with police finding him with a penknife and a wrap of cocaine.

She said: “I couldn’t believe it, because Simon had always been so anti drugs.

“Things got worse after he left the Army and he didn’t cope with life very well.

“He needed a job and something to focus on but nothing really compared with the Army.”

Simon last year made a fresh start in Preston, working with a friend installing cavity wall installation.

But he felt isolated and returned to live with his mum in Grasmere Drive last September.

She persuaded him to take anti-depressants but his moods remained up and down.

Last Friday night Simon did not return home and his mum assumed he was at a friend’s. When she got a call during the early hours of Sunday explaining what had happened, she realised he had not been where she had thought he was.

Simon’s inquest has been opened but Ms Wilcock wants to establish exactly what happened before arranging her son’s funeral.

She believes the Army could have done more to help her son.

“He was never really the same when he came back from Iraq,” she added.

“His brother said Simon had seen a lot more than he did because he was a team medic.

“Simon did not get any support from the Army – he was just written off – and they did not look at the circumstances around how he ended up in that position.”

As well as his parents, Simon leaves his five-year-old daughter Hailey, who lives with her mum in Leeds, his 23-year-old brother Adam, another brother Jonathan, 20, and a sister, Zoe, 21.

Det Insp Maria Taylor, of North Yorkshire Police, said: “The investigation into the man’s death is at a very early stage and we have not yet established what caused his death.

“However, until we have the full picture, I would urge people who use drugs to exercise caution and make sure they know what they are taking.”

Anyone with any information on the incident should call police on 101, select option 2 and ask for Harrogate CID.

Alternatively, contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

An Army spokesman said: “Any soldier in possession of drugs can expect to be discharged.

“In this case Simon Wilcock did undergo an assessment of his physcial and mental wellbeing prior to discharge but we were satisfied with the state of his mental health.”

The spokesman added that the Ministry of Defence ran a Veterans’ Welfare Service and that former soliders had access to health, welfare and financial support.