Royal Marines chief Matthew Holmes said ‘I have one last bullet to fire’ before killing himself after marriage split | The Sun

Royal Marines chief Matthew Holmes said ‘I have one last bullet to fire’ before killing himself after marriage split | The Sun

April 12, 2023

A FORMER Royal Marines top commander said that he had "one last bullet to fire" days before taking his own life, an inquest heard

Major General Matt Holmes, 54, was found hanged at his family home just months after he was removed from his role in April 2021.

He was only 20 months into what was supposed to be a three-year stint as Commandant General of the Royal Marines.

The dad-of-two told pals he felt betrayed by the Navy after he clashed with the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin.

An inquest began today at Winchester Crown Court into Major General Holmes' death.

His wife, Lea, told the court: "He was kind and he loved his children very much.

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"He was a Royal Marine. That was him, through and through.

"He left university, got a degree, and joined the Royal Marines and it was his life."

Mrs Holmes explained that Navy chiefs had told her husband to agree to a restructuring of the Marines or resign.

She recalled: "He was hugely upset by that.

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"With these huge amount of stresses, he was very unhappy at home and so that was very difficult for myself and the children.

"He had a short fuse. Myself and my daughter felt as if we were tip-toeing around a bit, trying to manage that."

Major Gen Holmes had watched his marriage collapse after being sidelined from his “dream job”.

In September 2021, Mrs Holmes told her husband she was leaving him.

On September 14, she heard her husband "crying in the bedroom upstairs", the inquest heard.

Mrs Holmes recalled: "He was sitting on the bed and he had the shotgun by him and I said 'what do you think you're doing?'

"I was concerned that he was in this way and that our daughter was in the next bedroom.

"He said 'my life's not worth living without my family'.

"I put the gun away back in the gun cabinet. There were some shots on the side."

Mrs Holmes said her husband later became "out of control" and was "storming around the house".

She said he "followed" her and turned up to her temporary accommodation late at night "demanding" she take him back.

"He could not see these as temporary challenges and he chose a permanent solution because it gave him control", she explained.

Winchester coroner Jason Pegg also heard that the decorated soldier told Vice Admiral Jerry Kyd that he had "one more bullet to fire" two days before his death.

At the time, he had been issued a restraining order after tracking down his wife, while his career faltered.

Mrs Holmes had told him she would be leaving him, while his Marines leaving dinner was a "car crash", it was heard.

Cops had also attended his home in Winchester, Hampshire, in the weeks leading up to his death on a welfare call and seized a shotgun from his house.

Meanwhile, he was served notice by solicitors ordering him to leave the family home two days after he died.

Recalling a conversation two days before his death, Vice Admiral Kyd said: "He reflected on what a horrible year it had been for him and his crumbling domestic situation.

"He said to me 'I have got one last bullet to fire', I had no idea what he meant by that but it did not cause concern."

Meanwhile, Maj Gen Holmes' sister Sarah Adkins told the court that she spoke to him and asked if he had any suicidal thoughts, to which he replied: "Why wouldn't I?"

Ms Adkins added: "The marriage breakdown was causing him a lot of stress."

She described him as "courageous, cheeky and highly intelligent" and said he was "focused on how his career had ended".

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The inquest heard that, a few weeks before Maj Gen Holmes' death, Lieutenant General Rob Magowan wrote to Admiral Radakin saying: “Matt is in a pretty bad place. There is a risk this could become a public story.”

Admiral Radakin, who was promoted to head of the Armed Forces a month after Maj Gen Holmes’ death, replied: “I hope this can stay out of the press.”

Lt. Gen Magowan told the court that he exchanged "daily" messages with Maj Gen Holmes, and that the distraught dad was "wholly obsessed with his predicament".

Lt Gen Magowan said: "He was in a different place now, not listening to what I was saying and focusing on things spiralling out of control in his life.

"I couldn't get him to see a doctor or focus on the workload I wanted him to do and to move, which would lead to an irreversible eviction from his home."

The court also heard that he was upset about the British withdrawal from Afghanistan having led 42 Commando there in 2006 and won a DSO bravery medal and a Legion of Merit from the US.

He was later awarded a CBE.

Jonathan Ball, CEO of the Royal Marines Association, was close with Maj Gen Holmes.

Mr Ball said: "He made some very close friends with senior Afghan officers and knew they were unlikely to be able to get out and feared for theirs and their families lives and felt like he personally failed them.

"It was the way the [Afghanistan] withdrawal was carried out that distressed him."

Mr Ball also said: "He had a perception of his time being cut short and had more to give.

"He was aware of the rivalry between him and Lt Gen Magowan and him taking over was a difficult place to be, despite a strong professional relationship.

"Matt perceived it as salt being rubbed in the wounds.

"He had lost control of his life.

"He was a leader, he was used to being in control and everything was being stripped away from him.

"The phrase he said to me was 'things are indescribably s***'."

Coroner Mr Pegg concluded Maj Gen Holmes committed suicide.

Mr Pegg said: "He was not only a distinguished officer but a son, a father and a brother. He was a family man.

"The role of Commandant General being taken away from him caused him much frustration and anger.

"It was quite clear that he was in a dark place and under stress and his world was now upside down.

"The chain of command did all the could, it seems to me. They recognised his predicament… They agreed to an extension to keep him in service which would have provided him with stability."

Mr Pegg added: "He was certainly awash with stress [when he killed himself].

"No doubt preying on his mind was the need to leave his home.

"He was suffering from substantial stress which contributed to the death."

After Maj Gen Holmes was found dead The Sun revealed how he had successfully resisted plans to give Royal Marines sailors’ ranks.

But he was slapped down by the Navy’s top brass for resisting plans to give his job to a “double-hatted” senior officer.

A source said he had a "serious falling out" with the First Sea Lord and his career never recovered.

Major Gen Holmes, who carried Prince Philip's coffin at his funeral, was transferred to a role in charge of MoD equipment.

The decorated war hero – a pal of Prince Harry's – was due to retire in October before he was found hanged.

Speaking ahead of the hearing today, Mrs Holmes described her husband as a "kind and generous man".

She told how he was "exceptionally proud" to have served the role in the Marines.

Lea added: "This is another very difficult day for us. Over the last 18 months we have had to learn how to navigate the next steps of our lives without Matt.

"There will be discussions about the reasons for what happened, including speculation, because of the very nature of Matt’s death.

"At the end of his life, Matt was coming to terms with the end of this stage of his career and facing personal struggles."

She said her husband had "committed his life to serving in the Royal Marines" and took "immense responsibility" for his fellow troops.

Mrs Holmes told how "not a day would go by without him thinking of the men under his Command who were lost or injured" and their families.

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She also thanked those who have sent their condolences to her and the couple's two children.

The mum added: "Alongside the demands of his career, Matt was a loving father who adored his children and would have hugely admired their resilience over the last 18 months."

If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article, please call the Samaritans for free on 116123.

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