TORONTO ó Family and friends of Maj. Raymond Ruckpaul, a 42-year-old soldier found dead two days ago in his barracks in Afghanistan, are frustrated they canít get answers about how he died.

Military officials arenít commenting on the circumstances surrounding the death of the Hamilton-born father of two, who was not in the thick of battle when his body was discovered "significantly injured" from a gunshot wound.

His remains are not expected to arrive in Toronto for an autopsy until at least Saturday, Ontario chief coroner Dr. Jim Cairns said Thursday.

"Everyoneís in a state of shock," said Leona Ruckpaul, one of Raymond Ruckpaulís cousins. "Nobody knows what happened. It will be a very long time before we really know the truth. The military is very tight-lipped when it comes to stuff like this."

Leona Ruckpaul, who lives in Kingston, Ont., said the family is trying to come to terms with the tragedy even though they donít have enough information to piece together what went wrong.

Ruckpaulís body was discovered around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday in his room in a secure compound in Kabul, the Afghan capital. The soldier, who was serving at the headquarters of NATOís International Security Assistance Force, died about an hour later.

Military officials ruled out enemy involvement in his death, saying the shooting occurred within the compound, and fuelling theories about murder or suicide.

Ruckpaulís death brings to 70 the number of Canadian soldiers who have died since 2002 in Afghanistan. The toll includes two past shootings that were ruled accidental.

Those who knew Ruckpaul, an armoured officer based at the NATO Allied Land Component Command Headquarters in Heidelberg, Germany, said suicide would be totally out of character.

"He was such a loving person, especially with his kids," said Valerie Bianchetto, a 40-year neighbour of the Ruckpaul family. "He was so happy about his family. He loved everything in his life. I donít think heíd be that type of person."

Bianchetto said that in a display of affection for his mother, Ruckpaul flew to Hamilton last year from Germany, where he lives with his wife and two children, a girl and a boy around 10 and 12, for a week to help his mother recover from a fall.

His parentsí Hamilton home was quiet yesterday and his parents Rudy and Joan Ruckpaul milled about their yard, visiting neighbours. A small, paper Canadian flag is taped in the middle of their front window.

Ruckpaul, described as good-natured, was truly dedicated to his army service, friends and relatives said. From a very young age, when he attended Barton Secondary School in Hamilton, Ruckpaul would tell everyone he wanted to be a soldier and serve Canada.

He joined the Canadian Forces before attending McMaster University, where he studied geology, relatives said. When he was finished repaying his debt of service to the Forces, he decided to make a career out of serving his country.

"He loved his job," longtime neighbour Judy Burroughs said. "He was very dedicated."

She said Ruckpaul was a positive force in the community and the neighbourhood is grieving his loss. While in his 20s, the soldier once rescued her twin two-year-old children, who had wandered out of their home into the snow wearing nothing but diapers and snow boots.

"Raymond brought them back," she said, tears welling in her eyes. "Itís a little too close to home. He was a nice guy."