Sailor who shot himself was ‘bubbly and positive’

Sam Hatton
Sam Hatton

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A naval doctor almost declared a sailor unfit for duty just one month before he shot himself aboard HMS Cattistock at Portsmouth Naval Base.

Dr Adrian Hamilton today told an inquest into ET Sam Hatton’s death on Sunday September 12, 2010, that he held a number of consultations with the 20-year-old about mental health problems he was suffering in the months after his best friend Matthew Webster committed suicide by shooting himself aboard HMS Hurworth.

The last consultation was held on August 18, 2010.

Dr Hamilton said: ‘Before I called him in, I thought ‘’I’m going to downgrade him today, I’m going to take him off the ship.’’’

But Dr Hamilton said he changed his mind after speaking with ET Hatton, who was ‘bubbly and positive’ at the meeting.

‘There was absolutely nothing in that consultation that gave me cause for concern that he was going to do anything,’ he said, adding that he was shocked and surprised when he learnt of ET Hatton’s death.

He said: ‘In that last consultation there was no evidence he was suffering from a mental disorder.

‘He was not suffering from depression and there was no intent to self harm.

‘This was a young man who spoke freely about his plans for the future in the short, medium and long term.

‘In hindsight, did I miss anything? I have thought that many times.

‘I don’t see how that consultation with that man linked to what happened on September 12.’

The inquest also heard navy regulations were broken when ET Hatton was allowed to go into Cattistock’s ammunition magazine unsupervised on the Friday before his death.

It was there that he stole the bullet he used to shoot himself with a rifle in the ship’s small arms store two days later.

ET Hatton had received generic training on the safe handling and storage of ammunition but he was not listed as a competent user or maintainer of ammunition aboard Cattistock.

Lt Cdr Michael Palmer, from the fleet explosives team, said: ‘Sam would have to be supervised in his entry to the magazine. He would not be able to draw the keys on his own.

‘If he was due to do work in the magazine it should have been supervised work.

‘This means an appropriate level of supervision.

‘To my mind he should not have been in the magazine on his own.

‘By the book he was not a competent maintainter.’

ET Hatton had been placed in a restricted role on board the ship following the suicide of his friend.

Nightmares had led to the sailor being medically discharged from a rifle training course at HMS Excellent in May 2010.

But on Friday, September 10, ET Hatton’s line manager, Chief Petty Officer Robert Tucker, said he felt he could trust the troubled youngster and sent him to fill in the temperature check card in the ship’s magazine.

‘The job itself is just moments, reading the thermometer and filling the card in,’ said CPO Tucker.

‘He could have gone in there do some cleaning with his colleague together before but it would have been unlikey in light of the scrutiny of him.

‘I certainly would not have sent him down there on his own before.’

However, in June 2010, Sam had gone to CPO Tucker and asked to be treated as a ‘normal’ crew man.

CPO TUcker said: ‘He came to me and said, “Look, I’m not Webster. You have got to let me stand or fall by my own merits.”

‘I trusted him so there was no issue in my mind.’

CPO Tucker said he only learned about ET Hatton’s true medical state after he killed himself.

He revealed he had not been given a full background briefing on Hatton’s service or medical history - including that he’d taken two overdoses of pills in 2008.

He only learned about this after Hatton’s death.

CPO Tucker said: ‘It shocked me. I stick by my view that there should be a review of the drafting process to small ships.

‘I would have much preferred if he was given six months to get over what had happened previously and then joined us.’

Lt Cdr Charles Maynard, who was captain of HMS Cattistock at the time of ET Hatton’s death, said: ‘Sam was not authorised to remove anything from the magazine.

‘It was contrary to regulations for Sam to enter the magazine in the way that he did on September 10.’

Lt Cdr Maynard also expressed his frustrations that he was not made fully aware of Sam’s history when he joined his ship.

He said: ‘In hindsight, knowing all the facts, we would have taken a different course of action.

‘But at the time, with what we knew, we had an active plan in place with Dr Adrian Hamilton and the command team to mentally support Sam onboard.

‘He seemed to be making good progress and he had encouraging reports from his divisional officer.

‘He was settling into the crew.

‘My gut instinct at this stage was that he could be successful.’

The inquest continues.