A Royal Marines chief who carried Prince Philip’s coffin hanged himself after suffering ‘overwhelming stress’ when he was replaced by his military ‘rival’ and his wife left him, an inquest heard today.
Major General Matt Holmes took his own life amid a toxic breakdown of both his marriage and his career, telling one senior colleague ‘I’ve got one last bullet to fire’ just two days before his death.
The 54 year old, who had lost his job as the head of the Royal Marines, said to his sister ‘why shouldn’t I?’ when she asked if he was thinking of killing himself.
His widow told his inquest she found Maj Gen Holmes sobbing at home next to a shotgun and told her ‘my life’s not worth living without my family’.
The two-star general hanged himself at his £1 million marital home just days after Lea Holmes told him she was leaving him and just two days before her lawyers wanted him out of the property.
The dad-of-two told pals he felt betrayed by the Navy after he clashed with the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin.
He had stopped eating and sleeping and became ‘wholly obsessed’ with his marriage, career, and financial woes, his inquest heard.
The high-ranking officer told friends his domestic life was ‘crumbling’ and that things were ‘indescribably s**t’.
The marriage ending came soon after Maj Gen Holmes had to step down from his post as the head of the Royal Marines, which left him stressed.
He believed his career was ‘cut short’, was ‘angry’ at how the restructure was carried out, and felt like ‘salt was being rubbed in the wounds’ as he was replaced by ‘rival’ Lieutenant General Rob Magowan CB CBE.
His body was found hanged at his family’s home in Winchester, Hants, on October 2, 2021.
A statement from Vice Admiral Kyd read: “He was talking about his marriage breakdown and the impact it would have on his children and their education. He said ‘I have one last bullet to fire’.”
In April 2021, less than two years into his posting as head of the Marines, Maj Gen Holmes was told to agree to a restructure or resign, it was heard.
He had been on three back-to-back tours and ‘didn’t have time to decompress’.
His stress mounted, feeling as if he had ‘more to give’, and on a family holiday to Cornwall in the Summer of 2021 he was angered by the UK military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan and felt responsible for Afghan officers who were now at risk.
Winchester Coroner’s Court heard Mrs Holmes told her husband she was leaving him in September 2021 and Marines bosses later offered him a six-month extension at work.
His leaving dinner was a ‘car crash’, it was heard.
Mrs Holmes today told his inquest: “He was kind and he loved his children very much. 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 said in Spring of 2021 Navy chiefs told Maj Gen Holmes he had to sign agreeing to a new restructure or resign.
“He was hugely upset by that”, Mrs Holmes said as she told of how his stress impacted their family life.
“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.”
In September 2021, Mrs Holmes told her husband she was leaving him.
On September 14, 2021, she heard her husband ‘crying in the bedroom upstairs’.
“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 was some shots [ammunition] on the side.”
Mrs Holmes said her husband 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.
His sister, Sarah Adkins said: “Matt was courageous, cheeky, highly intelligent, he had great emotional intelligence apart from when he was stressed.
“He was empathetic and he cared deeply for those he loved and the Royal Marines.
“From his earliest days he wanted to be in the Royal Marines and worked very hard to achieve that.”
The inquest heard Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, the head of the Armed Forces, said he had ‘no inkling he was suffering so severely’ and would kill himself.
Lea Holmes’ released a statement after, reading: “Matt was a kind, generous man.
“He had committed his life to serving in the Royal Marines and he took immense responsibility for the lives of those he served alongside very seriously: not a day would go by without him thinking of the men under his Command who were lost or injured; and of course, their families.
“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.
“The outcome of the Inquest does not change any of that and I would request that you respect our family’s privacy, at a time when we are all still grieving.
Then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson paid tribute to Maj Gen Holmes at the time of his death.
His funeral in Winchester Cathedral was attended by then-incoming head of the Armed Forces, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, ex-head
General Sir Nicholas Carter and Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace plus around 700 mourners.
The inquest continues.