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Widow is given right to bury husband after battle in court

A SOLDIER'S widow has won the right to bury her husband following a three-year legal wrangle with her mother-in-law over where he should be laid to rest.

Private Mark Connolly, 24, died after fellow squaddie Paul McKay, 27, attacked him in 2011 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 is still in a morgue in London after a rift between his wife Stacy Connolly and his mother Linda McComiskie erupted, with both determined to bury him in different places.

Now he will be laid to rest in Forfar, Angus, after his wife won a lengthy court case against Ms McComiskie.

In a 23-page written judgment, 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.

Sheriff Johnston said the soldier's mother had been "blinded" by her 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.

"She has been unable or unwilling to see past her own wishes, to give due regard to the wishes of her late son or to give any regard to the wishes of the pursuer [Mrs Connolly]."

A three-day civil proof at Forfar Sheriff Court previously heard Private Connolly's mother describe her daughter-in-law as being "jealous" of her "close" relationship with her son.

The 50-year-old said that when he had been injured during a tour of Afghanistan, Mrs Connolly hadn't informed them - and that her family had tried to "dictate" funeral arrangements to them when he died.

And she claimed the soldier had told his grandmother that he wanted to be buried beside his grandfather in Fife.

But the soldier's wife said he wanted to be buried alongside her 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.

Mrs Connolly insisted that Private Connolly 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.

In the written judgment released yesterday, Sheriff Johnston added: "I consider that the pursuer as widow has priority over the defender [Ms McComiskie] when it comes to making the funeral arrangements.

"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."

Mrs Connolly is understood to be on holiday abroad. A family friend said: "She will be pleased the sheriff has come down in her favour, but there are no winners.

"She just wants him to be laid to rest in peace as he should have been three years ago."

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