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Widow wins legal battle to bury Scottish soldier

Monday, 23 June, 2014

A soldier who died three years ago is to be buried in a place chosen by his widow and not his mother, Forfar Sheriff Court has ruled.

Mark Connolly died while on training in Germany in May 2011. His body was shipped back to Britain for burial under the direction of his mother Linda McComiskie, who he named as executrix in his standard Army will.

However, his widow Stacy Connolly objected to Linda's plans to hold the funeral in Fife, where Connolly's family own a burial plot. Instead, Stacy wanted him to be buried near their family home in Forfar.

The two women could not reach agreement. The widow duly applied to the Scottish Court of Session for judicial review of the Ministry of Defence Service Personnel and Veterans Agency's decision to release his body to his executrix for burial. Her lawyers argued that the relevant English law of executors' rights did not apply in Scotland. But in August 2011 the court rejected Stacy Connolly's petition and confirmed Mrs McComiskie's right to possession of the body.

However, the matter did not rest there. Stacy Connolly then petitioned Inverness Sheriff Court to appoint her as co-executor of the estate, at the same time obtaining a last-minute injunction to stop the MoD releasing his body for burial. She claimed that her husband had originally named her executor in his Army will after their wedding in 2009, but was wrongly told by a senior officer that he could not name the same person as beneficiary and executor.

That was in November 2011. All this time, the deceased's remains have been kept in a mortuary in London.

The dispute has now been adjudicated at Forfar Sheriff Court, the decision going in favour of Connolly's widow. Sheriff Valerie Johnston accepted her statement that Connolly had told her of his funeral preferences while he was recuperating in her care from a severe wound he had received in Afghanistan. 'In the intimacy of that marital relationship conversation took place about the couple's wishes should the unthinkable occur.'

The sheriff also criticised Connolly's mother for ‘lack of compassion’ towards the widow. The judgment is not yet published and it is unclear who will pay the legal costs.

Sources