Families' Stories

Jo Jukes ITV Interview

“I tried to get him help, I was trying to save his life and people didn’t work with me.”

For years Jo Jukes lived with a war veteran husband suffering from worsening post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and acute depression – while desperately seeking help for him.

Now she is a widow after Lance Corporal Dave Jukes took his own life in October behind the family’s home in Birmingham.

He had been sleeping rough in an alleyway after his volatile behaviour meant his wife had to make the agonising decision of taking out a court order banning him from entering their home.

It was a shocking end to the life of a former infantryman, 49, who had served in almost every major campaign British forces have been involved in over the last 25 years.

“He survived Northern Ireland, Bosnia, two Iraqs, Afghanistan, but his service killed him in the end,” Mrs Jukes told ITV News.

She had witnessed him spiral away from the “funny, very committed” man who had proposed to her by hiding a ring in the paws of a teddy bear.

“All he wanted was to be part of a family,” she remembered of the man she married.

The impact of leaving the Army and the mental scars he had collected from a life of service quickly took a toll greater than the antidepressants prescribed by a GP could combat, Mrs Jukes said.

“In his mind he was still the same bloke, but to the outside world he wasn’t,” she added.

“That’s when it first started, and it gradually over the years got worse and worse.”

He would have flashbacks and nightmares.

He would sweat through the night, or get up and say: “I can’t handle this.”

Survivor’s guilt from “something that happened” in Iraq would see him frequently ask his wife: “Why am I alive and they’re not?”

Mr Dukes had gone public with his struggles, describing the dreadful impact of PTSD in a video to raise awareness in 2016.

“Having bad thoughts every day, suicidal thoughts, is not a nice thing to live with,” he said as he performed press-ups in front of the camera.

Living with those thoughts made him increasingly dangerous for those who lived with him.

Towards the end of his life, now jobless and in the grips of PTSD, his

Mr Dukes had gone public with his struggles, describing the dreadful impact of PTSD in a video to raise awareness in 2016.

“Having bad thoughts every day, suicidal thoughts, is not a nice thing to live with,” he said as he performed press-ups in front of the camera.

Living with those thoughts made him increasingly dangerous for those who lived with him.

Towards the end of his life, now jobless and in the grips of PTSD, his loved ones had to leave the property after he barricaded himself into the family’s attic and refused all offers of help.

“It ended up where he smashed up the house, which wasn’t Dave.

“Dave wouldn’t do that,” Mrs Jukes said.

loved ones had to leave the property after he barricaded himself into the family’s attic and refused all offers of help.

“It ended up where he smashed up the house, which wasn’t Dave.

“Dave wouldn’t do that,” Mrs Jukes said.

She added that the family had been repeatedly let down.

She continued trying to get help for him, from the GP, the local health authority, the Ministry of Defence and veterans’ charities.

She says the couple would “just get passed from pillar to post” and that some officials even doubted the authenticity of her husband’s descriptions of his problems.

“I think that because he had complex PTSD I think they didn’t understand his symptoms or what he was talking about, and because of that they didn’t believe what he was saying,” she said.

“In his mind nobody understood him and what he was going through.”

She said officials had not built up a relationship with him.

“There was nobody that had his trust. They kept making him retell his story.”

Towards the end of his life, Mrs Jukes had warned about the stark danger he posed to his family and himself.

“Three weeks before he died I said to my GP: ‘He’s going to kill me or he’s going to kill himself, and then you’ll all say ‘Oh dear, we should have done something’ but it will be too late.’ And it is too late.”

The violent episodes at home saw Mrs Jukes advised to obtain a court order to prevent her husband entering their home.

“Because one of my daughters has autism and mental health issues herself, social services were alerted for safeguarding reasons,” she said.

“And we ended up where unfortunately I had to ask him to leave the house because I had to put my daughter first.”

A spokesperson for the Government said: “Suicide has a tragic effect on families and communities and we are determined to reduce suicide rates further – that’s why we recently announced our first ever dedicated suicide prevention minister.

“We are proud of our Armed Forces and for those who have been injured either physically or mentally, it is our duty to ensure they continue to receive the best possible care as veterans.

“Last year, the MOD launched the Veterans’ Gateway – a 24-hour helpline that acts as a single point of contact for former service personnel and their families to access advice on health care to finances and housing.

“Since 2010 we have provided an additional £22.5m to the NHS in England to meet the mental and physical health needs of the armed forces and veterans, with a further £9m since 2017 to set up new Transition, Intervention and Liaison Mental Health Services providing community based support for those personnel approaching discharge.”

Above all, Mrs Jukes wants to be heard – in order to keep others alive.

“I want us to be able to stop anybody else ever having to live what we’ve had to live,” she said.

“My life has changed forever because people wouldn’t step in and they wouldn’t listen.”