A POLICE trainer from the North-East who managed a mortuary after the 2004 Tsunami disaster has been awarded £400,000 compensation after suffering post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
David Collins, 45, who identified victims in Sri Lanka, worked 16-hour days and described the experience as a ‘production line of bodies’ after the giant Indian Ocean wave which killed 228,000 people.
Mr Collins, from Consett, County Durham, who was employed by police training agency Centrex, later the National Police Improvement Agency, developed mental health problems and had to leave his job when he returned to Britain.
Mr Collins was a trainer in forensics, photography and crime scene preparation and is now receiving therapy for PTSD.
He said: “While I am pleased that I was able to go to Sri Lanka and help support them during the country's time of need following the Tsunami disaster, the resulting illness I have suffered because of the lack of support from my previous employers has ruined my career and turned my life upside down.
"Nothing prepared me for my time out there. When I got back I was very obsessively organised and wouldn't do normal things like watching the news.
"After a couple of months back in the UK I was told that I would get a debrief, but it never happened and everything just never seemed the same."
He instructed Irwin Mitchell solicitors and he has won a settlement with his former employers after they admitted they breached the duty of care they owed him by not referring him to occupational health.
During the first two weeks in Sri Lanka, Mr Collins was working with a police team who were not forensically trained so had to do most of the work, photographing and fingerprinting bodies as well as storing them and moving them.
He then worked for a further four weeks with more specialist support from the Sri Lanka police force, but for the six-week period he only had three days off.
Mr Collins had difficulties with relationships at home and problems at work, and went off sick in April 2011, never to return.
He has suffered depression as a result of not being able to work and worried about his future and family.
A spokeswoman for the College of Policing, which replaced the National Police Improvement Agency in 2012, said: "We recognise there are lessons to be learned from this unique deployment and as the new professional body for policing we will ensure that any learning is applied to future deployments of this kind."