Family battles over right to fulfil soldier's burial wishes

THE widow and mother of a Scottish soldier, who survived an explosion in Afghanistan only to die in an alleged brawl in a German pub, are locked in a court battle over where he will be buried.

Private Mark Connolly's grieving wife Stacy has lodged papers at the Court of Session, in Edinburgh, in a bid to overturn a decision by the Ministry of Defence.

The MoD's Service Personnel and Veterans Agency has agreed to release his body to his mother Linda McComiskie, who lives in Methil, Fife, and wants her son to be buried in a family lair in nearby Wemyss.

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However, Pte Connolly's widow has told the court that, although he left no written instructions, her late husband made it clear he did not like Methil and did not want to be buried there.

Since receiving a letter from the MoD, informing her that burial arrangements would be handed to Mrs McComiskie, Mrs Connolly, 21, has launched a legal battle to have the decision overturned.

In papers lodged at the Court of Session, Mrs Connolly, of Forfar, in Angus, said her late husband wanted buried wherever they had settled as a couple.

Judge Lord Brodie heard, in legal arguments, that she wanted his grave to be beside that of her brother in Forfar. She is seeking a judicial review of a decision by the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency of the MoD.

The agency says it has to release her husband's body to his mother because she was named as executor in his will.

That has been challenged by Mrs Connolly's lawyers, who argue that may be the case in English law but does not apply in Scotland. Pte Connolly died in hospital on 14 May after an alleged fight outside a pub in Paderborn.

He was attending an army drivers' training course in Germany at the time.

After his death, Lieutenant Colonel Ed Fenton, the soldier's commanding officer, paid tribute.

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In a statement, he said: "He was a fit, proud and professional soldier blessed with an infectious enthusiasm for everything. Pte Connolly will be hugely missed by all who knew him.

"He leaves behind wife Stacy and family whom he loved dearly. They are in all of our thoughts and prayers at this tragic time." The soldier had served in Afghanistan with the Black Watch, 3rd Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland and had also seen service in Iraq and Northern Ireland.

He raised money for charity last year by appearing on the catwalk during New York's Tartan Week, wearing the traditional Black Watch tartan and uniform.

The 2010 Dressed to Kilt fashion show, organised by Sir Sean Connery, was aimed at raising funds for the veterans' charity Erskine.

At the time of Pte Connolly's death, Major Jim Panton, who was then chief executive of Erskine, said he was "devastated to hear what has happened".

In May, the Royal Military Police said a soldier has been arrested in connection with Pte Connolly's death in Germany.