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Soldier ‘withdrew’ after tour in Bosnia, ex-girlfriend tells inquest

Greg Matters is shown in an undated family handout photo.

Handout/The Canadian Press

The former girlfriend of an ex-soldier fatally shot by RCMP says he came home from a peacekeeping tour in Bosnia a different person.

Sonya Booker says she came to Prince George so that jurors at a coroner's inquest could hear about the kind of man Greg Matters was when they dated for five years while he was based at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in New Brunswick.

"Greg was an amazing man," Booker said through tears when asked what he was like before he was deployed to the Balkan country in 2001.

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"Greg had huge heart. He really cared about people and, even a stranger on the street, to his family, to his friends, to the people in the military, if he could help somebody he went out of his way to do that."

But she says after Matters returned from a six-month tour of duty in Bosnia, he was injured physically and emotionally changed.

"The Greg that I knew before Bosnia, to the one I knew after Bosnia, was different," Booker testified.

The injury impacted his work in the military but also his private life. He was a very active person but could no longer do the things he enjoyed.

"Our relationship was impacted. After he returned from Bosnia he withdrew intimately from our relationship, and withdrew from his friends," she testified.

"We didn't spend as much time with them afterwards."

The inquest has heard that Matters was in treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder that his psychiatrist linked to both his time in Bosnia and to two assaults he suffered at the hands of his military comrades.

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Matters also had several run-ins with RCMP, and believed he was being harassed. He had been in and out of trouble with police over threats he made in e-mails to people including his former therapist and a local Crown counsel.

Matters was fatally shot in the back on Sept. 10, 2012, by a member of the RCMP emergency response team sent to the rural farm where he lived with his mother to arrest him for assaulting his brother.

An investigation by the Independent Investigations Office in B.C. cleared the officers involved of criminal wrongdoing. The coroner's jury cannot find fault, but can make recommendations aimed at preventing similar deaths in the future.

The jury also heard Friday from the Lynne McInally, of the provincial government's Police Services division.

McInally said that standards for police in the province are in the midst of a sea change, that will move them from voluntary measures to binding standards.

McInally said previous inquiry recommendations around missing women are the priority right now, but a review of emergency response team standards is also on the agenda for the division.

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