Ex-Sandhurst head wins damages over royal stress claim

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LONDON, Oct 4 (Reuters) The former head of the military academy where Princes William and Harry trained won libel damages today over claims he quit due to the stress of coping with the royal recruits.

Major General Andrew Ritchie, who was commandant at the prestigious Sandhurst officer training academy, sued the Daily Mirror over a front page story that claimed he left his post early because of health fears.

His lawyers said the story was highly defamatory because it cast doubt on his professionalism and ability to handle stress.

''His reasons for leaving the army had nothing to do with stress, or to do with either of the two princes,'' Ritchie's lawyer Gerrard Tyrrell told the court.

''He has been trained to deal with stress and has a proven ability to deal with far more stressful events than running Sandhurst.'' Ritchie held the top job at Sandhurst in Berkshire for 40 months, the longest period for a commandant in 20 years, Tyrrell added. He left the army to become director of the Goodenough College for postgraduates in London.

William and Harry graduated from Sandhurst in a blaze of publicity last year to begin their careers as army officers.

The tabloid newspaper agreed to pay undisclosed damages and legal costs. It apologised for the ''distress, embarrassment and injury'' caused.

The Times and Daily Express have already paid the former officer damages for making similar claims earlier this year.

REUTERS JK PM1755

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