Ex-soldier accused of faking trench foot for £1.6m payout caught after wearing ‘open-toed’ sandals

Michael Mantey, pictured outside the High Court, insists he was genuinely injured but is accused of being 'fundamentally dishonest' - Champion News
Michael Mantey, pictured outside the High Court, insists he was genuinely injured but is accused of being 'fundamentally dishonest' - Champion News

An ex-soldier who claims he is super-sensitive to the cold after a trench foot injury has been accused of faking the illness for a £1.6 million payout after he was filmed wearing "opened-toed strappy sandals".

Michael Mantey, 39, claims to have suffered a non-freezing cold injury (NFCI) - also known as trench foot - while on Nato duty with the Royal Engineers in Estonia in late 2017.

He says bitterly cold temperatures resulted in nerve damage to his hands and feet, leaving him needing a walking stick and so sensitive to the cold he has to keep running his heating and wear extra-warm clothes.

He sued the MoD for £1.6m, but later dropped his case after he was secretly filmed and accused of faking a limp and wrapping up in layers he didn't need in order to "hoodwink" doctors.

Lawyers for the MoD claim he faked symptoms by wrapping up in a "long, warm overcoat" on a trip to get examined by a medic on the same day he was filmed walking around in a track suit top and "opened-toed strappy sandals" at home.

And a week earlier, he had gone to see another doctor, bundled up in "three to four top layers, including t-shirt, sweatshirt, a coat, jeans and boots," they say.

He could now face a £70,000 lawyers' bill for his aborted compensation bid after the MoD asked a High Court judge to rule that his claim was "fundamentally dishonest."

But despite dropping his claim, Mr Mantey, of Andover, Hants, insists that he was genuinely injured and disabled by the effects of cold weather service.

'Bitterly cold conditions'

In his claim, he said he suffered his non-freezing cold injury (NFCI) when he had to sleep without a tent in bitterly cold Estonia while on Operation Cabrit in 2017.

He claimed he was also subjected to other periods of working in damagingly cold temperatures, but was simply told to "man up" when he complained to superiors.

The Ghana-born lance corporal had enlisted in the British Army in 2009 and served in the 22 and 26 Engineer Regiments, before being medically discharged in January 2020.

Suing, he claimed he had suffered an NFCI, a type of cold-sensitive injury to the hands and feet - first noted in the trenches of the First World War - caused when body tissue is exposed to excessive cold and wet conditions.

But having launched his claim, Mr Mantey "discontinued" after he was secretly filmed and seemingly shown to be able to walk normally, said MoD barrister Andrew Ward.

Mr Ward said the footage, which was shown to judge Mr Justice Eyre, revealed Mr Mantey walking without a stick and wearing normal clothing on the morning and evening of one day.

Walking stick claim

Cross-examining Mr Mantey in the witness box, Mr Ward asked why he had claimed that he could not walk without a stick, when he clearly could.

"I am forced to use the crutch all the time, but on occasions when the medication has numbed the pain I am able to walk without an aid for shorter distances," said Mr Mantey.

He said that, on the day he was filmed, he had been planning to walk his daughter to school and so had spent the previous day indoors, and had taken his medication.

The MoD accepts that Mr Mantey may have had a minor NFCI, but that it would have resolved itself, and say his £1.6 million claim was based on lies about its severity.

If he is found to have been "fundamentally dishonest", Mr Mantey could be made to pay the MoD's defence of his aborted claim, which is estimated at about £70,000.

The judge is expected to give judgment at a later date.