Turkey treating death of White Helmets co-founder as suicide

Death of White Helmets British co-founder James Le Mesurier being 'treated as suicide'
2 min read
14 November, 2019
James Le Mesurier was discovered with fractures to his legs and head outside his Istanbul apartment building early on Monday.
Emma Hedvig Christina Winberg has been banned from leaving Turkey. [Getty]

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 analysing 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.

Read more:  Syria's White Helmets: A symbol of peace and hope

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.

The former army officer was widely labelled as the founder of the White Helmets, the rescue organisation responsible for saving hundreds of civilians from the rubble of Syrian regime and Russian airstrikes.

Le Mesurier rejected the label, insisting in a 2016 interview with The National that efforts to present the group as having a foreign founder were "an effort to undermine the credibility of the Syria Civil Defense".

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

Following his death, activists on social media have suggested the involvement of Russia's intelligence agency, the Federal Security Service (FSB).

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