Unlikely Hero Labour's Trying to Gag; Andrew Walker Has Become a Hero to Service Families

Daily Mail (London), March 19, 2008 | Go to article overview

Unlikely Hero Labour's Trying to Gag; Andrew Walker Has Become a Hero to Service Families


Byline: Marcus Dunk

ANDREW Walker has proved a thorn in the Government's side asOxfordshire's assistant deputy coroner.

Since taking the job in June 2006, he has overseen dozens of inquests into thedeaths of soldiers. He has exposed Ministry of Defence incompetence, officialblundering and obfuscation in his dogged pursuit of justice for the families ofsoldiers killed.

But behind his often stern expression and sometimes fiery tongue is a softerside. He lowers his head, and his voice, when addressing tearful mothers,fathers, wives and girlfriends and makes them his priority.

Through his relentless pursuit of justice and meticulous legal argument, the40-year-old barrister has become something of a hero to military families.

Described by fellow coroners as 'thorough' and 'precise', Mr Walker is also aman who cannot seem to take 'no' for an answer.

Service families, who are regularly faced with blanket denials and officialindifference, are quick to acknowledge him as one of the few in theestablishment to take their grievances seriously. He is also willing toquestion the conventional line in his pursuit of the truth.

This extended as far as an attempt to summon such a high-profile witness asGeoff Hoon, the then defence secretary, to give evidence.

On his appointment there was little to indicate that Mr Walker would be sooutspoken, yet his role has given him a ready platform.

Bodies of servicemen who die overseas are brought back to Britain via RAF BrizeNorton in Oxfordshire, making the inquests the responsibility of the county'scoroner.

By 2006, however, the enormous backlog of cases resulted in numerous complaintsfrom service families. In order to cut through the case load, three coronerswere temporarily appointed, with Mr Walker among them.

He quickly gained a reputation as a man who refused to be cowed. Whileinvestigating the death of Matty Hull who was killed in a friendly-fireincident involving an American A-10 plane in Iraq in 2003, Mr Walker took onthe full force of the Pentagon.

He attacked U. …

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