An ex-soldier who is suing the MoD for £3.7million over trench foot is facing claims he faked his condition by packing his feet in ice blocks before being examined.
Brian Muyepa, 32, says he suffered severe non-freezing cold injuries after being left in wet boots for five hours after a training exercise in a Welsh tunnel in winter 2016.
But the former Royal Artillery gunner is facing ‘fraud’ accusations over an alleged scam involving ‘putting ice packs around his feet to fool the diagnostic tests’.
MoD lawyers earlier this year admitted it breached its duty of care towards Mr Muyepa, but later accused him of ‘exaggerating’ his claim.
The change in approach came after video footage – which has since been deleted – allegedly showed him dancing at a barbecue on social media.
They are applying to withdraw the original admission and amend their defence to accuse him of lying to ‘fool’ them.
Brian Muyepa, 32, says he suffered severe non-freezing cold injuries after being left in wet boots for five hours after a training exercise in a Welsh tunnel in winter 2016
MoD barrister Andrew Ward told Judge John Kimbell QC at the High Court a new witness has come forward to testify against Mr Muyepa.
They claim he ‘discussed with someone else packing ice blocks around his feet to fool the diagnostic infrared thermography tests’.
They said this came before his feet were looked at by military doctors at the Institute of Naval Medicine, in Gosport, Hampshire.
‘Our case is that the claim is entirely fraudulent,’ Mr Ward told the judge.
In his £3.7million compensation claim, Mr Muyepa says non-freezing cold injuries – known during the First World War as trench foot – have left him in crippling pain.
He had enlisted in the Royal Artillery as a 19-year-old gunner in 2007 and joined 40 Regiment and later 47 Regiment.
He says his injury occurred when he went on a promotion exercise 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.
Most commonly experienced by servicemen, it was first noted in the trenches of Europe during the First World War, resulting in being known as trench foot.
He says the pain in his extremities is there most of the time, he struggles to get up from a sitting position and has to leave his wife (pictured together) to do all the housework
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 the 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.
Following his diagnosis, it was recommended Mr Muyepa be protected from cold in future, his barrister Laura Collignon told the court.
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.
Ms Collignon explained his condition subsequently worsened and he was diagnosed as having ‘very severe’ cold sensitivity in his feet.
He was eventually medically discharged in January 2018 and started his compensation claim later that year.
In his claim, he says he can only walk around 100m with a walking stick and can only stand for 10 minutes to make a drink or snack.
He says the pain in his extremities is there most of the time, he struggles to get up from a sitting position and has to leave his wife to do all the housework.
His £3.7million claim includes over £800,000 for the loss of his Army career and £1.7million to pay for the cost of carers for the rest of his life.
If awarded, it would be the highest ever reported payout by the MOD for a non-freezing cold injury.
But the MoD says they re-examined the claim when the video footage of him dancing emerged.
It allegedly showed him being ‘much more mobile’ than he had made out and leading to accusations he had ‘overegged and exaggerated the claim’.
The August 2018 barbecue footage, in which Mr Muyepa is said to be seen dancing and holding a plate, had been posted by his wife on her Facebook page.
Another Facebook post showed Mr Muyepa performing as a DJ at a party in a sports hall. Mr Ward told the court the MoD believes his whole case is a fake.
He told the judge: ‘Our case is that the claim is entirely fraudulent, that the claimant discussed with someone else packing ice blocks around his feet to fool the infrared thermography tests at the Institute of Naval Medicine.
‘If a claimant is fraudulently attempting to engineer his own injury that is not within the duty of care owed by an employer to an employee,’ he added.
He told the judge the MoD wishes to withdraw the admission of breach of duty, amend their defence and put in a new statement from a witness detailing the allegations around the ice block scam.
The medical experts already set to give evidence at the trial of the claim will also be asked to investigate whether the alleged trick with the ice blocks could in fact have been used to ‘fool the machine’ used for his tests.
Mr Muyepa denies all the allegations of dishonesty and exaggeration put forward by the MoD and is pressing on with his claim.
A ten-day trial of the case is set to go ahead later this year.