THE family of a former Rifleman who took his own life have expressed their gratitude to the support they received from a “special” Dorset rugby community.

Jamie Davis, who played for East Dorset Rugby Club, had struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder following tours of Iraq and Afghanistan with the 4th Battalion the Rifles.

The Christchurch father of two was found deceased in his van in a car park in Totton on January 11.

The 30-year-old was discovered by a friend, who was one of 40 players from East Dorset Rugby Club and Dorset Dockers out searching.

Jamie’s family said without his “beloved rugby brothers”, they believe they would have lost him sooner.

Having received a message from Jamie saying “I love you all, this is no one’s fault”, his brother and sister drove to East Dorset Rugby Club on January 10.

“By the time we arrived, there was already a large presence of players, all ready to start searching the local area,” Jamie’s family said. “They were all hell bent on finding him in time. As we drove around that night, we were inundated with messages and calls with updates of areas already covered. Every time we pulled into an area to search, we would bump into these lads and also police, all searching tirelessly.

“The next morning, the club was opened to help console the members involved and we were introduced formally to everyone.

“What followed was an amazing outpouring of love from the two clubs that we have never before witnessed.”

Rugby matches held minute silences for weeks after Jamie’s death and Bournemouth RFC welcomed the family to watch them play, inviting them on the pitch to pay their respects.

A memorial match was also organised, although this has been postponed due to the pandemic.

“The worry from us as a family was very much ‘how long will this last’, but we needn’t have,” the family said. “Even through lockdown the bond has been strong. Weekly quizzes, WhatsApp and messenger groups and, eventually as lockdown eased, small group walks through the Purbecks have all helped to ease a terrible feeling of loss for our baby brother.”

Jamie's brother Adam added: “I have played rugby before, I still keep in contact with older players from that club. The common observation from them and everyone who we introduce to them, is that this club is special. I have never before witnessed a group of men conduct themselves in the way that they do.

"Merciless and professional on the pitch, but kind, considerate and loving of each other off of it. They truly epitomise the rugby code and ethos.

"They have made us a part of their family at a time when we most needed it.”

Since Jamie’s death, East Dorset Rugby Club and Dorset Dockers have merged to form East Dorset Dockers RFC. In their submission for approval of the merger to the Rugby Football Union, the clubs referenced how the tragic events that took place earlier this year had a profound effect on the collective group.

The submission said: “That shared experience has brought about a very special bond to the two sets of players, who no longer consider themselves separate at all. It is on paper, not relevant. But in reality, Jamie’s death is hugely significant.”

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