Tragic Blackwatch soldier to finally be buried

Private Mark Connolly who died in May 2011. Picture: Paul Reid
Private Mark Connolly who died in May 2011. Picture: Paul Reid
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A TRAGIC Black Watch hero soldier whose body has lain in a London morgue for more than three years will finally be buried - after his mother dropped her final legal challenge in a bitter row with the squaddie’s grieving wife.

Private Mark Connolly died in Germany in 2011 following a “freak” punch in a bar fight with another soldier.

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A row then erupted between mother Linda McComiskie and wife Stacy Connolly over where Mark - who suffered severe arm injuries and burns in a Taliban bomb blast in Afghanistan in 2009 - should be buried.

A protracted and bitterly fought legal battle appeared to have come to an end this summer when a sheriff ruled Stacy had the right to bury him in her home town of Forfar - and blasted Linda for a “distinct lack of compassion”.

But Linda, 51, appealed that judgement, putting the funeral on hold once more.

However, yesterday Linda said she had finally decided to drop her case - but said she felt she had “lost Mark twice”.

Black Watch soldier Mark, 24, died after fellow squaddie Paul McKay, 27, decked 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.

Mrs McComiskie has always insisted that her son wished to be buried in the family lair at MacDuff Cemetery in East Wemyss, despite claims by Mrs Connolly he wanted to be laid to rest at a plot earmarked for her in Forfar.

However, her latest challenge has now been dropped due to a lack of funding, with Mark now almost certainly to be laid to rest in Angus.

Mrs McComiskie said: “All my money and legal aid has gone.

“This is the moment I have been dreading for three years.

“I’m heartbroken.

“It feels like I’ve lost Mark twice.

“There is no justice.”

Mrs McComiskie added: “Letting go is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

“Mark may be buried where Stacy wants but he won’t be there.

“In my heart I know his spirit will always be here, with his family.

“At least he’s finally getting laid to rest.

“We still have our memories of Mark and no legal battle can take those away.”

His widow was not available for comment at her home in Perth.

Mark suffered severe arm injuries and burns in a Taliban bomb blast in Afghanistan in 2009.

After his recovery, he was praised for helping to raise money for other wounded soldiers.

In a 23 page judgement issued earlier this year, Sheriff Valerie Johnston blasted Linda - criticising her 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.

“She thought only of herself and how she had been overlooked.”

In contrast, Mark’s 29-year-old widow was described as having gone through the harrowing legal process in a “quiet dignified manner and with due regard to the delicacy of the subject matter involved”.

His wife’s intention, in accordance with what she told a civil proof at Forfar Sheriff Court were her husband’s wishes, was for Mr Connolly to be buried in Forfar so he could ultimately be with her when she is laid to rest in the town’s Newmonthill Cemetery.

However, Mr Connolly’s mother challenged the plan as executor of his will, saying she wanted him to be interred in a family plot at Macduff Cemetery in East Wemyss.

Following earlier legal wrangling at the Court of Session, the case was the subject of a civil proof at Forfar which last month saw a sheriff rule in Mrs Connolly’s favour.

A three-day hearing heard Private Connolly’s mother, Linda, describing Stacy as being “jealous” of her “close” relationship with Mark.

She claimed Mark had told his grandmother that he wanted to be buried beside his grandfather in Fife.

Stacy insists Mark named her executor in his will after their wedding in February 2009, but changed it after a senior officer wrongly told him he couldn’t.

The 29-year-old widow 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.”

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