A former soldier who was “outed” online for allegedly pretending to be an elite Paratrooper today told how his life is being ruined by a string of threats against him and his young family.
Dad-of two David Edwards, 35, from Penwortham, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder from his time in the forces, denies claiming to have been a member of the Parachute Regiment.
But the threats started after a Facebook group dedicated to tracking down “Walter Mittys” posted pictures of Mr Edwards posing in a Para uniform on his wedding day and visiting a school. There is also footage of him appearing on a BBC programme on which he was captioned as a “former Paratrooper”.
And a member of the Walter Mitty Hunters Club group, which has since been closed down by Facebook for violating its policies, contacted Mr Edwards about his life in the Army, asking him about being a Paratrooper.
That conversation, which details Mr Edwards talking in-depth about the training Paras undergo, was then also posted on the site, leading to a stream of insults and abuse to him and his wife Becky, which have become so bad, he has had to alert the police.
Mr Edwards has since apologised on the site for any offence he has caused – and today admitted he could understand the anger of actual Paras. But he says he does not deserve the abuse he is continuing to get.
He said: “It is out of order what they are doing. It is a witch hunt, it is harassment, it is bullying. I have loads of threats on the page and the odd message - people saying I am going to smash your face in.
“It has been nothing but abuse.
“They asked me about what life is like in the Paras - not what I had personally done. Then they twisted it.
“I have explained it to them umpteen times. I have put it on the page umpteen times and I just get loads of abuse.
“The idea of these pages is to look for people who spend all day every day on their computers playing Call of Duty and then claim to have killed 5,000 Iraqis with a spoon. But I have done my time, I have done my service and I have the records to prove it.”
Known as Eddie to his friends, Mr Edwards, who has a four year old son and 16-month-old daughter, says he joined the Territorial Army in 1995 as part of the REME regiment before becoming part of the regular Army the following year.
He joined the 1 WFR regiment before applying for transfer to the Paras - P Company - in 1999.
But before he got a chance to do the training, he badly damaged his ankle and knee on an assault course, ending his dream.
After years of operations and recuperation, he rejected the chance of a medical discharge and joined the Royal Logistics Corps in 2003, serving on tours of Iraq with the 5GS Medical Regiment before leaving the Army in 2007.
In his online apology, he said: “To all members of the WMHC, I am sorry if I have offended you in any way. I was not Para reg and I did not sit BPC (basic parachute course) or P Coy.”
Mr Edwards claims when he appeared on the BBC, in a programme about PTSD, he told them he had told them he had served alongside 2 Para in Northern Ireland and 3 Para in Kosovo, but never said he had been part of the regiment.
He also claims the uniform was bought for him as a gift by one of his senior officers, in readiness for him completing P Coy. He said he wore the £1,000 uniform for his wedding day, at his wife’s request and at a Preston school where he spoke to pupils about PTSD.
And he owns various pieces of Parachute Regiment memorabilia in memory of two of his friends, who were in the regiment and lost their lives.
He was diagnosed with PTSD by the Lancashire Mental Health Team in 2008 and continues to take medication today.
He believes it was triggered by the horrific injuries he had to treat in Iraq and says his wife is terrified the Facebook abuse could see him take a backwards step.
A spokesman for Lancashire Police confirmed they had received a report from Mr Edwards’ wife about “problems with Facebook” and threats relating to the group.
The force advised the couple to contact Facebook about the page and take civil action if the problems continue.