THE wife of a dead Black Watch soldier has won the right to bury him after he lay in a mortuary for three years as a bitter legal battle raged between her and his mother.
Private Mark Connolly, 24, died after fellow squaddie Paul McKay, 27, killed 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, Private Connolly’s body remains in a mortuary in London after a rift between his wife, Stacy Connolly, 29, and his mother, Linda McComiskie, 50, with both sides determined to bury him in different places.
Now he will be laid to rest in Forfar, Angus, after wife Mrs Connolly won a lengthy court case against Ms McComiskie.
In a written judgment released yesterday, Sheriff Valerie Johnston criticised Ms McComiskie for having “little regard for the body of her son languishing in storage in London for over three years”.
She said Private Connolly’s mother had shown a “distinct lack of compassion” towards his wife – and that she was “incapable of adopting an unbiased approach”.
Sheriff Johnston wrote: “She has been blinded by her own desire to win the argument. She showed a lack of insight into the situation of a young, recently widowed woman and a distinct lack of compassion.”
The sheriff went on: “The deceased had witnessed at extremely close quarters the obliteration of a fellow serviceman in an explosion and suffered physical injuries in that explosion.
“He was also left with the sort of mental scars that a person who has not been in a combat situation cannot properly understand. His wife had been at his side throughout his recovery. In the intimacy of that marital relationship, conversation took place about the couple’s wishes should the unthinkable occur.
“There is no evidence that her desire to comply with those wishes is motivated by any grudge against the defender or her family.”
A three-day hearing at Forfar Sheriff Court heard Private Connolly’s mother describe Mrs Connolly as being “jealous” of her “close” relationship with her son.
The 50-year-old said that when Private Connolly had been injured during a tour of Afghanistan, Mrs Connolly had not informed her – and that her family had tried to “dictate” funeral arrangements to them when he died.
She claimed Private Connolly had told his grandmother that he wanted to be buried beside his grandfather in Fife.
But Mrs Connolly said he wanted to be buried alongside his wife when she eventually passes away – and that she will be laid to rest in Forfar. She wants to bury him in a “colourful” service in the Angus town.
Ms McComiskie’s lawyer, Tony Anderson, told the court that Mrs Connolly was the “lone voice” in support of a Forfar burial.
But Susie Clark, for Mrs Connolly, said: “A chasm of ill-feeling had sprung between the parties since Mark’s death three years ago.”
Mrs Connolly is understood to be on holiday abroad. Last night a family friend said: “She just wants him to be laid to rest in peace as he should have been three years ago.”