Ex-soldier accused of faking trench foot as he makes record £2.9m damages claim against Ministry of Defence says condition left him waddling ‘like a penguin’
An ex-soldier has been accused of faking trench foot as he makes a record £2.9 million damages claim against the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
Brian Muyepa claims he has been left waddling ‘like a penguin’ after being left in we boots for over five hours following a training exercise in a water-filled Welsh tunnel in winter 2016.
The 33-year-old says he suffered severe ‘non-freezing cold injuries’ and has been left so disabled he has been reduced to shuffling around and relying on a walking stick or his wife to help him get around.
He is claiming £2.9 million in compensation from the MoD, but it claims he is ‘lying’ in order to ‘ramp up’ his claim for money.
The MoD says there is evidence that the entire claim is a ‘fraud’ and that Mr Muyepa had planned to make it after discussing the idea of packing his boots with ice to ‘fool’ medics.
Footage posted on Facebook also shows him dancing to loud music at a barbecue and seemingly walking ‘normally’ at a friend’s wedding party in Nottingham in June 2019, MoD lawyers say.
Brian Muyepa, pictured, claims he suffered severe ‘non-freezing cold injuries’ during a training exercise in Wales in winter 2016
But Mr Muyepa, who was based at Salisbury, denies lying and told judge Mr Justice Cotter: ‘That’s not the way I used to walk before my injury. I used to walk with a big stride.
‘Now I don’t – I walk like a penguin.’
The London court heard the former Royal Artillery gunner’s case revolves around a promotion exercise he attended in Sennybridge, Wales, in March 2016.
During the exercise, he spent time in a cold water-filled tunnel, but then had to continue for another five-and-a-half hours afterwards in wet boots.
He was later diagnosed with non-freezing cold injury, a disabling condition which is characterised by pain in the extremities and an oversensitivity to cold.
Mr Muyepa, pictured here with his wife, said he is left needing her help or the aid of a walking stick to get around
Most commonly experienced by servicemen, it was first noted in the trenches of Europe during the First World War, resulting in its more commonly used description as ‘trench foot.’
Following his diagnosis, it was recommended that Mr Muyepa be protected from cold in future, his lawyers claim.
But after a stay on Ascension Island, he was exposed again at Salisbury Plain in early 2017, when he spent much of his time working outdoors on vehicles.
His condition subsequently worsened and he was diagnosed as having ‘very severe’ cold sensitivity in his feet.
The serious condition that killed 75,000 Brits during WWI: What is trench foot?
When did it become known?
Trench foot is a serious foot condition that first became known during the First World War.
Troops fighting in wet and cold trenches without spare socks or boots would often go down with it.
It was so serious it killed about 75,000 British soldiers and 2,000 Americans during the conflict.
What causes it?
The condition comes when feet get wet and are not dried properly.
It usually happens at around 30F to 40F but can still happen in the desert.
It is more likely to be caused by wet feet rather than cold ones, with wet socks and shoes staying on the foot for a while usually making it worse.
But with cold and wet socks and boots the feet start to lose nerve function and are deprived of oxygen and blood.
When the nerves are damaged like this, it can make it harder to realise one has trench foot.
What are the symptoms?
Sufferers get blisters, blotchy skin, redness and skin can peel off.
It can also make a one’s feet feel cold, heavy, numb, painful when around heat, itchy and tingly.
What happens to the foot?
Depending on the severity of trench foot, a person could have to be amputated, will have severe blisters, struggle to walk, suffer gangrene and ulcers and also have permanent nerve damage.
How can you prevent it?
To prevent getting trench foot in the first place, a person should take off their socks, not wear dirty socks to bed, clean the affected area quickly, dry their feet and apply heat packs to the affected area.
Claiming £2.9m damages, Mr Muyepa told the judge that the injury had severely impacted on most aspects of his everyday life.
He almost always requires a walking stick, sometimes cannot get out of bed, suffers sleeplessness and often feels ‘like a prisoner’ in his home, he said.
But cross-examining him, MoD barrister Andrew Ward suggested that Mr Muyepa had told a pack of ‘lies’ to inflate the value of his compensation claim.
‘Whenever you go to see somebody to claim money like benefits or to see an expert in relation to your claim, you put on an act to…ramp up your entitlement to damages or benefits,’ he put to him.
The barrister produced a stream of videos, taken from Facebook or from covertly recorded surveillance, which he said showed Mr Muyepa has ‘ramped up and exaggerated’ an ‘extravagant claim.’
In one video, Mr Muyepa can be seen in an apron, marinating chicken at a barbecue, while dancing around to loud music.
Mr Ward suggested it showed that Mr Muyepa had misled care experts about his disability.
But Mr Muyepa – who was medically discharged from the Army in January 2018 – said, like his walking had changed, he now cannot dance enthusiastically as he once would have done.
‘I am dancing like I’m at a wedding,’ he said.
‘I’m not jumping around in the air. I am dancing like a penguin, from side to side.’
He said the various videos may have been recorded on ‘good’ days when his symptoms are not so bad, such as when it is warm outside or he has drunk alcohol, numbing the pain.
‘My injury fluctuates. I can be feeling a bit okay, but in the next hour or 30 minutes, things can turn around,’ he told the judge.
‘I need a walking stick every day of my life. That stick helps me move around better and give me confidence.
‘In a true sense, I hate my stick, but I have to have the stick to move around.’
And he claimed it was ‘unfair’ that the videos did not show him on the bad days when he is more affected by his ‘invisible’ injury.
‘Nobody knows my struggle,’ he told the judge.
‘You can only see 30 minutes or an hour on the video. I suffer in silence.’
Mr Ward suggested that Mr Muyepa had repeatedly shown himself to be ‘making things up as you go along to cover your tracks.’
The trial continues.