A Falklands War hero distressed by recent flare-ups in hostilities between Britain and Argentina has been found dead in his car.
Ex-Para Stephen Hood – who featured in iconic film footage celebrating victory at the battle of Goose Green – died just hours after Argentine president Cristina de Kirchner reignited the sovereignty row over the islands. Yesterday, his distraught widow Carol urged politicians to stop their sabre-rattling for the sake of traumatised veterans.
She told The Mail on Sunday: ‘What do the politicians achieve with their to-ing and fro-ing? Nothing. They should let it lie and leave it to the people of the Falkland Islands to determine their future.
Ex Para Stephen Hood, pictured here drinking after the battle of Goose Green, has been found dead in his car
Police believe Hood, who was found six miles from his home, died of carbon monoxide poisoning
Father-of-two Hood, known as ‘Hank’ to Army colleagues, was found dead on Thursday six miles from his home in Rhyl, North Wales.
Police believe the 52-year-old died from carbon monoxide poisoning. A post-mortem examination will be conducted on Monday and his funeral is due to take place on January 25.
When Hood went missing news bulletins were featuring the latest demands by President de Kirchner for Britain to surrender the Falklands. Television reports included the Goose Green footage of Hood and fellow paratroopers. He was shown smiling at the camera and drinking from a bottle of Bacardi.
The same clip featured in the 2006 film This Is England and The Iron Lady, the 2011 film about former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Hood served with 2nd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment in the Falklands, and previously in Northern Ireland.
Hood’s widow Carol has urged politicians to stop their arguments for the sake of traumatised veterans
As a medic with B Company, he saw action at Goose Green, widely considered the most intense and significant battle of the war. Outnumbered paratroopers fought a brutal night action to defeat Argentinians who were dug into well-protected positions on a hillside. Hood gained huge respect from colleagues because every casualty who arrived at the medical station – called the Regimental Aid Post – was treated so professionally that they survived.
But his widow said her husband remained haunted by the war.
Stephen ‘Hank’ Hood (left) with wife Carol, daughter Kirsty and son Leigh
‘He was struggling with flashbacks,’ she said. ‘Today he would have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder but it wasn’t called that back then. ‘Stephen was sent to see a civilian psychiatrist but that was no good as he knew nothing about the war. ‘Veterans like Stephen need a network of soldiers to speak to. I hope that any war veteran who is struggling emotionally from their memories reads this piece and seeks the help they need.’
Indeed, more veterans of the Falklands are thought to have taken their lives since the 1982 conflict than died in the fighting against Argentine forces. Hood met Carol after the war. They married and had two children, Leigh and Kirsty. His last posting in the Army was to the Parachute Regiment’s training depot at Aldershot, Hampshire. Afterwards he became a paramedic on North Sea oil platforms. He had been due to return to work on Friday of last week.
Hood’s period of seasonal leave coincided with a flurry of media reports about the war, following the disclosure of previously secret Government documents. The poignant timing of the tragedy has led Mrs Hood to plead that her husband’s death is not used as propaganda or to further inflame the ongoing diplomatic row between Britain and Argentina.
She said: ‘Stephen was not anti-Argentine and neither am I. I am sure their veterans are struggling too and need help. ‘For this reason I would like the governments of both countries to calm things down and stop dragging up the war. ‘It will be for the Falklanders to vote on their future. So many of Stephen’s colleagues died so they, the islanders, could exercise this freedom – they should be allowed to do so without interference.’
Tensions between Britain and Argentina have been rising since last year’s 30th anniversary of the war. Five days after the anniversary President de Kirchner confronted Prime Minister David Cameron about the issue of the Falklands – which Argentina calls the Malvinas – when they attended the G8 economic summit in Mexico.
Later, in July, Argentina provoked outrage when television stations ran a TV advert showing London 2012 athlete Fernando Zylberberg training in the Falklands. Britain has also raised the tension in the diplomatic conflict between the countries, accusing Argentina of strangling the Falklands economy and reminding President de Kirchner that the sovereignty of the islands is non-negotiable. The latest episode of sabre-rattling came last week when President de Kirchner published an open letter in The Guardian newspaper demanding the islands’ return.
Former Para and Falklands veteran Paul Bishop said: ‘Knowing that he suffered flashbacks and how these could be triggered, it would have been very upsetting for Hank to hear the Argentine president raising the issue of the sovereignty of the Falklands Islands, definitely so.
A view of Goose Green, the East Falkland settlement which was recaptured from Argentine forces by paratroopers from the British Falklands Task Force in May 1982
‘Whenever we discussed these issues he would get upset. He could never forget the loss of so many friends’ lives and the memories never went away. ‘The emotional turmoil was getting harder year by year.’ Another colleague of Hood’s from the Parachute Regiment, Ian ‘Brummie’ Robinson, agreed. He said: ‘From my experiences with him, hearing the politicians raising issues about the Falklands triggered a reaction in him. This is a tragedy.’
Hood’s daughter Kirsty, 23, added: ‘Our thoughts as a family, and my father’s thoughts returned to the war a lot. All the coverage could be difficult to deal with.’