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Devastated family pay tribute to ex-soldier Mitchell Wickenden found dead in Southampton
HE was a popular “cheeky chappy” with a heart of gold who could win anyone over with his smile.
Those are the words used by the devastated family of former Hampshire soldier Mitchell Wickenden after he was found dead at his home aged just 25.
The body of the former private with the 1st Battalion, Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, was discovered by police who broke into his Southampton flat when relatives raised the alarm because they couldn’t contact him. He was found hanged.
Today, as a post-mortem examination was due to take place to determine his cause of death, his grieving relatives paid tribute to Mitchell but said they could not come to terms with what had happened.
Sister Sadie, 26, told how he had been devastated after a catalogue of recent events that included splitting from his girlfriend and losing his job as a driver’s mate with an electrical firm.
But she added that they would never know the impact of a sixmonth tour of duty on the frontline in Iraq had had on him. He was later discharged from the Army on medical grounds.
It was in 2006 that Mitchell, an avid Saints fan then just 18, went to the troubled country alongside some 600 soldiers from 1PWRR, nicknamed The Tigers. When he returned he was immediately posted to Catterick, north Yorkshire, before he left the job he had grown up wanting to do.
Sadie said: “He never got over what happened in the Army. He said he could not handle it mentally, but you can’t blame him as they were just children going out to war.
“There was stuff he just didn’t tell anyone, he would only let you see what he wanted you to see.
“I can’t get my head around it. I don’t think it has sunk in yet. I never knew he was feeling that low.”
She added: “He was such a funny guy who made friends so easily. He was also a real ladies’ man who had a heart of gold and trusted people, perhaps too much.
“He was an amazing uncle and adored all of his nieces and nephews including my son Dylan who just runs around shouting out his name.”
Sadie’s tributes were echoed by her devastated grandparents David and Rosemary, who have cared for her and Mitchell since they were aged nine and eight respectively.
Speaking from their home in Redbridge, they told how they had last seen their grandson when he came for dinner, as he did most days, last Friday night kissing them goodbye as he left.
Throughout his childhood, during which he attended Bellemoor School in Shirley, he enjoyed annual family holidays to France or Spain and was taught to swim by the couple.
It was his grandparents and siblings who he said he missed terribly when interviewed by the Daily Echo during his time in Iraq.
David said: “He was a well liked lad who was in the cadets when he was growing up but only ever wanted to join the Army.
“We went to his passing out parade when he was awarded a cup for the best physical training recruit and it was our proudest moment.
“We didn’t agree with the war, but I was a soldier myself and this was his job so of course we were proud of him.
“When he came back from Iraq he came to live with us but never really talked about it. We would say things to him, try and talk, but he was always quiet.
“Mitchell was your typical lad of his age, but he always wanted to be working. He also loved his family and his nephew – and he adored him.”
Rosemary added: “You just never expect your children let alone your grandchildren to go before you. We are devastated.”
Mitchell’s body was found at his home in Witts Hill, Midanbury, on Monday morning.
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