‘No indication’ army gunner from Wigan intended to take her own life at barracks

There was “no indication” an army gunner had suicidal thoughts or intended to take her own life, an inquest heard.
Sophie MaddenSophie Madden
Sophie Madden

Sophie Madden, a 23-year-old mother-of-one from Wigan, was found dead in the shower block of Saint Martin’s Plain Army Training Centre in Folkestone, Kent, on June 10.

She was a gunner in the Third Regiment Royal Horse Artillery of the British Army and had been on a night out with friends and colleagues the evening before her death, before heading to bed at around 1am.

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Ms Madden was seen heading towards the shower block shortly after, which was considered normal as she often showered before bed.

The next day, at around 9.30am, a colleague went to the shower block and saw Ms Madden’s belongings on a bench outside a cubicle.

She raised the alarm, and once the cubicle door was opened, Ms Madden’s body was found.

A police investigation found no signs of third party involvement or criminal activity.

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The inquest heard there was no evidence she was expecting anyone to go into the shower block and did not tell anyone she was feeling suicidal.

A toxicology report found she had 173mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood in her system, more than double the drink-drive limit, but friends with her the night before said she had drunk less than usual.

Ms Madden had no ongoing physical health issues, according to her GP, and she was not known to mental health services.

She had been placed on a “vulnerability register” by the Army in 2020 after she was seen hitting her head against a wall after drinking alcohol, but after two years of observation and weekly check-ups she was removed from the list in 2022.

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Colleagues said there were rumours Ms Madden had self-harmed and had a “difficult upbringing”, and in 2020 she was the victim of an alleged assault by her son’s father – however she declined to support a prosecution.

Ms Madden’s sister Chantelle spoke to her just hours before she died and in her police statement said the news of Sophie’s death was a “total surprise”.

She said Ms Madden had claimed she was stressed that her phone was broken and she did not have the money to fix it, and also that she was facing a bill for damages caused by her dog at her previous accommodation.

Her sister said: “Sophie was a strong, independent woman, and didn’t tend to worry about things. I told her I’d send her some money and a spare phone the next day, but I didn’t have any concerns for her safety or mental health.”

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There was no note or evidence to suggest premeditation, but coroner Katrina Hepburn returned a verdict of suicide at the inquest held in Maidstone on Monday.

She said: “I have to consider whether Sophie intended to take her own life or if it was a cry for help. There is no evidence she was expecting anyone to come in and didn’t tell anyone she was feeling in any way suicidal, or made anyone aware of any issues when she went in.

“I am satisfied she did in fact intend to take her own life, and satisfied all other scenarios have been ruled out. Therefore a conclusion of suicide is needed on the balance of probability.”

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