Soldier who claims debilitating ‘over-sensitivity to the cold’ left him unable to walk more than 100m is accused of £3.7m compensation scam after he was filmed DANCING at a barbecue
- Brian Muyepa suffered a non-freezing cold injury after exercise in Wales in 2016
- He is suing the Ministry of Defence for £3.7million after his medical discharge
- But MOD has accused him of ‘fundamental dishonesty’ in exaggerating his claim
- Footage posted to Facebook shows him dancing at a barbecue in August 2018
An ex-soldier who claims a debilitating ‘over-sensitivity to the cold’ left him in crippling pain has been accused of a £3.7million compensation scam after he was filmed dancing at a barbecue.
Brian Muyepa, 32, suffered the non-freezing cold injury after being left in wet boots for over five hours following a training exercise in Sennybridge, Wales, in 2016.
He claimed the condition, also known as ‘trench foot’, resulted in crippling pain in his hands and feet, and he was discharged from the British Army in 2018.
But while Ministry of Defence lawyers admit negligence, Mr Muyepa is now being accused of ‘fundamental dishonesty’ in exaggerating his claim after video of his dancing surfaced later that year.
The MOD says the footage shows him much more mobile than he appeared when he visited a doctor months later, when he could not even stand without a walking stick.
Brian Muyepa, 32, suffered the non-freezing cold injury after being left in wet boots for over five hours following a training exercise in Sennybridge, Wales, in 2016
‘The video shows how he behaves when he is in his own environment, not thinking he is being watched,’ MoD barrister Andrew Ward told the High Court.
‘The concern is he is fundamentally dishonest in the way he has overegged and exaggerated the claim.’
Judge Simon Auerbach heard that Mr Muyepa enlisted in the Royal Artillery as a 19-year-old gunner in 2007 and joined 40 Regiment and later 47 Regiment.
His injury occurred when he went on a promotion exercise 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.
When he finally got back inside, his hands and feet were swollen, tingling and painful.
He was later diagnosed with non-freezing cold injury, a disabling condition which is characterised by pain in the extremities and an over-sensitivity to cold.
Most commonly experienced by servicemen, it was first noted in the trenches of Europe during the First World War and nicknamed ‘trench foot’.
Following his diagnosis, it was recommended that Mr Muyepa be protected from the cold in the 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 that his condition subsequently worsened and he was diagnosed as having ‘very severe’ cold sensitivity in his feet.
He claimed the condition, also known as ‘trench foot’, resulted in crippling pain in his hands and feet, and he was discharged from the British Army in 2018. Pictured: Muyepa with his wife Racheal
He was eventually medically discharged in January 2018 and started his compensation claim later that year.
In his claim, he said he could only walk around 100m with a walking stick and could only stand for 10 minutes to make a drink or snack.
He added the pain in his extremities is there most of the time, that 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.
For the MOD, Mr Ward said the level of damages claimed was extremely high and the care claim comparable with those made in cases where a person has been rendered paraplegic.
He said Mr Muyepa’s presentation to his doctor was completely different to what was seen in the Facebook video and secretly recorded footage of him out for the day.
‘He was examined on March 16, 2020. The doctor asked him to stand with two feet together and his eyes open. He took a little weight on the stick in his left hand,’ he said.
‘When the doctor asked him to lift the stick a quarter of an inch, he fell backwards. The doctor said it was dramatic and didn’t look like a natural fall.’
The August 2018 barbecue footage, in which Mr Muyepa can be seen dancing and holding a plate, had been posted seven months earlier by his wife on her Facebook page.
Another Facebook post showed Mr Muyepa performing as a DJ at a party in a sports hall, he continued.
‘He is capable of behaving in a manifestly different way to the way he presented himself to the doctor,’ he said.
Subsequently recorded secret footage also showed Mr Muyepa out for an hour and a half, taking his kids to school and going shopping at Lidl and Home Bargains.
Asking the judge to allow the new evidence to be included in the forthcoming trial of his claim, he alleged it showed Mr Muyepa is much more mobile when he thinks he is not being watched.
But for Mr Muyepa, Ms Collignon accused the MOD of ‘ambushing’ them with the new evidence only a month before the trial was due to begin.
The evidence was also ‘weak,’ she said, since it is not surprising a cold injury victim would feel better on a sunny day after a few drinks.
‘The evidence is broadly consistent with what he said about the variation in intensity of symptoms,’ she told the judge.
‘The claimant says he had been drinking alcohol that day, and he does experience alleviation of symptoms when he takes painkillers.
‘He has said he can walk, he can stand – he isn’t engaging in vigorous movements in that dancing.’
Surveillance experts had tried to film him on nine days, she said, and he had only been seen to leave his house on three of them.
In Lidl, he was filmed unloading shopping onto the checkout one-handed, using the other to steady himself on his walking stick.
She added: ‘This is a claimant who has been seriously injured as a result of the Ministry of Defence’s admitted negligence.
‘He has suffered a career-ending injury after 10 years of military service.’
Giving judgment, Judge Auerbach ordered that the new evidence be included in the trial, which he said would now have to be delayed.
‘There would be a real risk of unfairness to the MOD were I not to admit this material,’ he said.
‘It is at least arguable this material could potentially have an appreciable impact on the final quantum of the award that the court makes.’
A date has not been set for the trial of Mr Muyepa’s claim.
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