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Turkey Treating Death of Key Backer of White Helmets as Suicide

Turkey Treating Death of Key Backer of White Helmets as Suicide

Thursday, 14 November, 2019 - 10:30
Members of the Civil Defense rescue children after what activists said was an air strike by forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad in al-Shaar neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria June 2, 2014. REUTERS/Sultan Kitaz

Turkish police are treating as suicide the death of an ex-British Army officer who helped start Syria's White Helmets, but his wife has been banned from leaving the country, local media said Thursday.

Police are analyzing James Le Mesurier's hospital records where he sought help for mental health issues, the private DHA news agency said.

Le Mesurier was discovered with fractures to his legs and head outside his Istanbul apartment building early on Monday.

He founded Mayday Rescue, which helped train the White Helmets, a voluntary search-and-rescue group that was established to respond to bombings by the Syrian regime in opposition-held areas.

Authorities have barred his wife, Emma Hedvig Christina Winberg, from leaving Turkey until the investigation has been completed, Turkish agency DHA reported.

Winberg gave a three-hour statement to police on Wednesday, it added.

Turkish media have reported that Le Mesurier recently sought medical help for stress, and was using sleeping pills and antidepressants.

Winberg has reportedly also told police that he had suicidal thoughts two weeks before his death.

The couple's domestic worker, who was in the building at the time, has told police she knew nothing about how Le Mesurier died, according to DHA.

Le Mesurier's body was repatriated to the UK on Wednesday.

Last week a top Russian official had alleged Le Mesurier was a spy — a claim Britain strongly denies.

Ambassador Karen Pierce, UK Permanent Representative to the UN, described Le Mesurier as a "true hero" when she was asked about his death by reporters.

"The causes of death at the moment are unclear. We will be looking very closely to see how the investigation goes. I hope the Turkish authorities will be able to investigate thoroughly," she said earlier this week.

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