A UK minister has apologised after saying British veterans who served in Afghanistan had committed suicide over what happened in the country recently without verifying the information.
Speaking during a round of media interviews on Monday, Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said he knew of veterans who had committed suicide.
“I know, unfortunately, there have been soldiers who’ve served in Afghanistan, indeed a soldier who served on my last tour in Afghanistan, who have taken their own lives in the last week or so because of the feelings they’ve had over what’s happened in Afghanistan,” the minister told Sky News’s Kay Burley.
“That is hugely concerning and upsetting for people like me who are now in government and who served there and I know how much the veterans community is hurting.”
His comments came as Prime Minister Boris Johnson was set to announce an additional £5 million ($7 million) to help military charities offering support on mental health issues to veterans in a Commons statement on the latest situation.
However, Heappey corrected himself in a separate interview shortly after.
“Since I mentioned that to your colleague Kay Burley on Sky only 20 minutes ago, we’ve had a number of reports that actually the thing I was referring to was inaccurate,” he told “BBC Breakfast.”
Heappey added that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) was “looking very, very carefully” at whether there had been Afghan-related veteran suicide.
He later told ITV’s “Good Morning Britain” that his comments were based on a suicide note posted on social media.
“A suicide note was shared on social media at the back end of last week which referred in very, very accurate detail to the tour that I served on which was with 2 Rifles in Sangin in 2009,” Heappey said.
“Because it lays the blame [on] the words of politicians in saying that this wasn’t all in vain, I have spent the weekend thinking that my words on this subject might have contributed to the suicide of a colleague,” he said, adding that he was told after his comment that the note “may not be real.”
“I am deeply embarrassed to have reflected on something which I had seen on social media and struck me as very true and had affected me deeply.”
Replying to a Twitter post by a Sky News editor, Heappey said that the MoD “aren’t certain that note is real so wanted to clarify.”
Heappey told ITV that his possible mistake “shouldn’t take away from the fact that far too many service people have taken their lives in the last 10 years as a consequence of their service in Afghanistan.”
PA contributed to this report.