'I lost five babies due to husband's violent nightmares'

Andrew with his three children Image copyright Roberts family
Image caption Andrew Roberts with his three children

Army widow Lindsey Roberts says she has had five miscarriages after her husband Andrew, who had PTSD, mistakenly hit her during his nightmares. Now, she is taking up a legal case against the Ministry of Defence.

"His first physical nightmare didn't happen until I was pregnant," Lindsey Roberts tells the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme.

"I was five weeks pregnant at the time and I lost the baby."

Lindsey, from Bicester, Oxfordshire, says she lost five children after being accidentally hit by her husband, Andrew Roberts, during his sleep.

Cpl Roberts joined the Army aged 17 and went on nine tours - including two in Iraq, and three in Afghanistan.

It left him with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and he tried to take his own life.

He died following a Taliban mortar attack on 4 May, 2012.

Lindsey remembers him very fondly: "He was the nicest guy. He'd do anything for anybody. He was caring - he was everybody's best mate."

Image copyright Roberts family
Image caption Andrew went on nine tours with the British Army

The miscarriages, Lindsey explains, took place across a number of years.

"Night terrors weren't happening all the time, so we didn't stop sleeping in the same bed. I wouldn't be able to predict when it would happen."

She says the miscarriages would take place within "days, weeks" of being physically hurt.

The bruises would be all over her body, she says, although she admits to lying at the time about how they originated.

"I didn't want to get him in trouble. I would say I had fallen down the stairs," she says.

In 2009, when Andrew returned from his second tour of Afghanistan, Lindsey says he was unknowingly hitting her in his sleep up to three times a week.

'The Army were aware'

Lindsey was pregnant eight times with Andrew, and has "three beautiful children" aged eight, 10 and 11.

"They were tiny when all this was going on," she says. "Now they are aware what happened with Dad.

"They remember a few incidents, like him having flashbacks."

Image copyright Roberts family
Image caption Andrew and Lindsey on their wedding day

In 2009, as Andrew's condition became worse, the couple split - although they remained married.

She says the Army later knew about his PTSD and the severe effects on his health.

"In the last two years he was alive, the military were aware of his mental health issues," she says.

"They had to attend on a couple of his attempted suicides. He was very unstable. The Army definitely knew."

Lindsey says Andrew "would still be alive if he had different care".

"The year before he went on [his final] tour he had serious mental health problems. He should have been medically downgraded and not deployed.

"He tried to kill himself. How obvious does it need to be?"

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

  • PTSD is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events
  • Someone with PTSD often relives the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks and may experience feelings of isolation, irritability and guilt
  • Events that can cause PTSD include serious road accidents, sexual assault or prolonged sexual abuse, military combat and natural disasters
  • PTSD is estimated to affect around one in every three people who have a traumatic experience. It is not clear why some people develop the condition and others do not.

Source: NHS Choices

Andrew died in Afghanistan in 2012 following a mortar strike, suffering fatal injuries when shrapnel pierced his side.

He had seen his children before he left.

"We met up a couple of times, with the kids, and he would phone every other day - speaking to the kids."

Lindsey remembers the moment she first knew something was wrong, two months into Andrew's final tour.

"I was in the gym. My neighbour phoned me to say that five times in an hour an officer had been at my front door. I knew instantly.

"I drove like a bat out of hell home. I was so worked up. I knew he was dead."

'Wives are victims too'

Lindsey is now pursuing two legal claims against the Ministry of Defence (MoD) - one for failing its duty of care towards her husband by allowing him to return to Afghanistan in 2012 and the other a personal injury claim for the injuries she suffered as a result of her husband's trauma.

Lindsey hopes this will force an investigation, or full public inquiry, that might improve MoD procedures in future.

"The reason we are suing for myself is to make the MoD realise the wives are secondary victims. No-one has acknowledged this," she explains.

"No-one says there are women up and down the country hurt or in bad situations - or worse, losing their kids - because their husbands are [unknowingly] violent as a result of PTSD."

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said "while we wouldn't comment on a specific legal case, the mental health of everyone who serves our country is of the utmost importance and that's why we encourage anyone needing help to come forward and get the assistance they deserve before, during and after deployments."

Image copyright Roberts family
Image caption Andrew with his two daughters

Lindsey - who has set up the Roberts Project, a veterans' charity - says she and her children have remained strong during such a difficult time.

"We are a very happy family, my kids are good. They are strong kids - they've been through a lot."

She says her late husband would be "really proud" of how they were coping.

"If he was sat next to me now, he would be supporting me," she says.

Watch the Victoria Derbyshire programme on weekdays between 09:00 and 11:00 on BBC Two and the BBC News Channel.

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