Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Coroner Wrote to PM about Soldier's Death; Father Tells Inquest of His Confusion over Passing of 'Meticulous' Son

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Coroner Wrote to PM about Soldier's Death; Father Tells Inquest of His Confusion over Passing of 'Meticulous' Son

Article excerpt

Byline: Rob Phillips? 0191 201 6262 ? jnl.newsdesk@ncjmedia.co.uk

A CORONER wrote to the Prime Minister with concerns about how an investigation of a British soldier who died in a drunken shooting incident while serving at an air base in Iraq had been carried out.

Lance Corporal David Wilson, 27, was found slumped at a desk in the Joint Helicopter Force stores at Basra air base in December 2008 with a gunshot wound to his head.

He had become a father 11 weeks before to baby Poppy and was an upbeat character with everything to live for, an inquest in Crook, County Durham, heard this week.

His family do not believe he deliberately shot himself and believe horseplay or an accident could have been the cause.

Andrew Tweddle, coroner for South Durham and Darlington, yesterday returned an open verdict.

But he also apologised for the delay in bringing the inquest to court, and revealed he was so concerned about the lack of progress that for the first time in his 25 years in post, he wrote to the Prime Minister in November 2011.

He explained how he had contacted the Defence Inquest Unit with "concerns about the investigation that had been carried out into David's death and that progress of the case was painfully slow".

The hearing had been told how military police investigators botched elements of the inquiry, meaning a full picture of what happened that night has been obscured.

Concerns about handling forensic evidence were raised during the case, with William Boyce QC, for the family, describing elements of the inquiry as "a circus". Mr Tweddle said he would have to be sure the soldier intended to kill himself to return a suicide verdict.

"Even on the balance of probabilities, I would struggle to meet that test," he said. "The evidence does not fully disclose the circumstances in which David came by his death."

Mr Tweddle found the soldier fired the fatal shot himself and that the gun did not go off because of a malfunction.

He also ruled that L/Cpl Wilson "was intoxicated and this would have had an effect on his decisionmaking ability and perception of risk". …

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