What drove tormented veteran to tragic end

LOVED brother and friend, keen outdoorsman and tormented veteran.

Khrys Alan Vignes' battle with mental health came to a tragic end on Sunday evening when a 10-hour siege ended after a firefight with police in waist-deep, crocodile infested water near Yorkeys Knob.

No one knows what went through his mind in those final hours or what triggered the doomed mission that led to Vignes surrounded and hunted through waterways and sugarcane fields. But the man who injured police and sparked an evacuation of nearby properties was not the Khrys Vignes remembered by his friends and brother.

Khrys Vignes was shot and killed by police after a ten hours siege near Yorkeys Knob
Khrys Vignes was shot and killed by police after a ten hours siege near Yorkeys Knob

"The thing I remember about Khrys is that he just wanted to help everyone else," close friend Shayla Kaimuko said.

"If there was ever a problem he was the one to talk to - if you wanted a hug or advice, he was there to help you.

"He didn't like drama, ironically enough."

She said Vignes was in his element in the outdoors - his social media feeds were replete with photos of hunting, camping and four-wheel driving and gave no clue to the demons he had grappled with for years.

"He absolutely loved the outdoors, every weekend he would be stuck in the mud somewhere, he was the most adventurous person," Ms Kaimuko said.

So what was the trauma that would eventually drive Vignes, 30, to that point of self-destruction?

 

Khrys Vignes (second from right) was a former member of Western Australia’s Pilbara Regiment Khrys Vignes.
Khrys Vignes (second from right) was a former member of Western Australia’s Pilbara Regiment Khrys Vignes.

The Department of Defence would not divulge details of his service history.

"Defence is aware of the recent events in Cairns involving the death of a man following a police incident," a departmental spokesman said.

"Defence can confirm the individual involved was a former Australian Army soldier, (but) due to privacy reasons Defence is unable to provide any further information on the member or their service history."

However, his brother Liam Vignes provided some detail.

 

Police locked in a standoff with an armed man on the Captain Cook Hwy who refused to surrender himself to officers on Sunday. PICTURE: STEWART McLEAN
Police locked in a standoff with an armed man on the Captain Cook Hwy who refused to surrender himself to officers on Sunday. PICTURE: STEWART McLEAN

Vignes enlisted in the regular army in his late teens, service that is understood to have ended as a reservist in Western Australia's Pilbara Regiment, a unit, like Cairns' own 51st Battalion, the Far North Queensland Regiment, that was tasked with surveillance of the continent's vast northern borders.

Somewhere during his service was a turning point that would claw at Vignes like a splinter in his mind.

"He was deployed in joint taskforces as far as I know," Liam said.

"I only know how he was injured while intercepting a pirate vessel. He was attacked as soon as he set foot on the pirate ship and had to fight. It was the only time he talked to me about a deployment."

 

SERT officers shot Khrys Vignes dead while in waist deep water of Thomatis Creek on Sunday. PICTURE: STEWART McLEAN
SERT officers shot Khrys Vignes dead while in waist deep water of Thomatis Creek on Sunday. PICTURE: STEWART McLEAN

 

As far as Liam and Shayla understand, it was the ongoing PTSD that Vignes suffered that would see him leave the Pilbara and return home to Mossman.

But instead of seeking help and the companionship of friends and family, Vignes retreated.

"He was a very sheltered person and for the last 12 months we actually did not see him," Ms Kaimuko said.

Somalia veteran and clinical psychologist Dr Tim White said Vignes likely fell victim to a confluence of tragic factors.

"Normal stresses can be overlaid by PTSD," Dr White said.

"There are a number of support services available but the military culture has long been one of stoicism.

"This is a cohort of people that when placed under stress react in a way that is volatile or different from the mainstream population."

Originally published as What drove tormented Far North veteran to tragic end