THE mother and widow of a Black Watch soldier both wept in court yesterday as a bitter dispute between them over where he should be buried raged on three years after his death.
Private Mark Connolly, 24, died in May 2011 after fellow squaddie Paul McKay, 27, struck him with a single punch at a pub in Germany where they were stationed. Private McKay was later cleared of manslaughter after a court martial heard he acted in self-defence.
But three years on, Pte Connolly’s body remains in a mortuary in London after a rift between his wife, Stacy Connolly, and his mother, Linda McComiskie, erupted, with each woman wanting to bury him in different places.
His wife wants to lay her husband to rest in her home town of Forfar, Angus, following a “colourful” service, while his mother – the executor of his will – wants her son buried in the family plot at Macduff Cemetery in East Wemyss, Fife.
A civil hearing at Forfar Sheriff Court yesterday was told Mrs McComiskie, 50, claimed that Mrs Connolly, 29, was “jealous” of her close relationship with Pte Connolly.
Mrs McComiskie claimed that when her son had been injured during a tour of Afghanistan in 2009, his wife had failed to inform them. She also said that Mrs Connolly’s family had tried to “dictate” funeral arrangements to them when he died.
Mrs McComiskie claimed Pte Connolly had told his grandmother that he wanted to be buried beside his grandfather in Fife. But his wife said the soldier had said he wanted to be buried alongside her when she eventually passed away.
Mrs Connolly insisted her husband named her as executor in his will after their wedding in February 2009, but changed it after a senior officer wrongly told him this was not permitted.
She said: “I’m here to carry out my husband’s wishes. We’re talking about who has the right to bury him and who decides where and how it happens.”
But Mrs McComiskie said she believed her son should be buried at the cemetery less than a mile from her home in Methil.
She said: “There was always a strange distance between me and Stacy. When he was injured in Afghanistan, he was flown to Selly Oak [Hospital] in Birmingham for treatment.
“I thought Stacy would have phoned to tell me about that, but I got it from a visiting army officer instead. It must have been a couple of days after he was hurt before I was told.”
She added: “I didn’t see him in the months before he died.”
Solicitor Tony Anderson, representing Mrs McComiskie, asked: “It may be suggested that you had fallen out in that period?”
She replied: “No, I never fell out with him, only Stacy.”
Recounting the moment she was told of her son’s death, she said: “An officer came to my door and said Mark had head injuries. I didn’t know how severe, I couldn’t take it in.
“They wanted to fly me and my partner Les Sneddon to Germany but my passport was out of date so I couldn’t go.
“A couple of weeks later, Les called up Stacy and her mum said to him that there were funeral arrangements.
“Her mum basically dictated to us that you will wear colourful clothes and not black, and that he’d be buried in Forfar. I phoned back up and said they will not tell me what to wear to my own son’s funeral.”
Mrs McComiskie said she and Mrs Connolly eventually met to discuss arrangements.
“I said they can have a service in Forfar but he has to come back to Fife to be buried … all his family are there – he doesn’t have a family in Forfar.”
The case continues.