Tayside and Central Scotland

Police called to soldier's funeral over family feud

Funeral rammy Image copyright Paul Reid
Image caption Arguments broke out during the full military burial at Forfar's Newmonthill Cemetery

Police had to step in at the funeral of a Black Watch soldier after a family feud boiled over at the graveside.

Pte Mark Connolly's body was left lying in a morgue in London for three years while his wife Stacey and mother Linda McComiskie fought a legal battle over where to bury him.

The funeral was held in Forfar after a sheriff sided with Mrs Connolly.

However, officers had to step in after scuffles broke out at the graveside between the two sides of the family.

A full military burial was carried out at Newmonthill Cemetery in Forfar for Pte Connolly, who died aged 24 after being punched in a bar fight in Germany in 2011.

Tensions had mounted when Mrs McComiskie and other mourners from the soldier's home town of Leven were earlier barred from entering a ceremony at Forfar's Royal British Legion hall.

Police had been stationed at the door of the club and on surrounding streets in case of trouble, and three officers had to intervene to break up scuffles as the casket was lowered into the grave.

As floral tributes were thrown aside amid pushing and shoving, Mrs McComiskie was heard to shout: "Scum, you're all scum.

"It's my son here, I'm not scared of anyone.

"I hope you're all proud of yourselves. I know what they're thinking, that I'm scum, but I'm his mum."

Image copyright Other
Image caption Pte Connolly served in Iraq, Afghanistan and Northern Ireland

Pte Connolly died in 2011 while stationed in Germany after fellow squaddie Paul McKay, 27, punched him during a bar fight.

Pte McKay was later cleared of manslaughter after a court martial heard he had acted in self-defence.

The dead soldier's wife and mother clashed over where he should be buried, with Mrs McComiskie insisting he should be laid to rest in the family plot in East Wemyss.

His wife's assertion that he wanted to be buried in a plot earmarked for her in Forfar was accepted by a sheriff during a lengthy civil court battle, which only concluded last month when Mrs McComiskie dropped her appeal due to a lack of funding.

The sheriff said Mrs McComiskie had displayed "little regard for the body of her son languishing in storage in London for over three years".

'Sorely missed'

Pte Connolly's commanding officer Lt Col Alasdair Steele paid tribute to the veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts after the funeral.

He said: "Private Mark Connolly fulfilled a lifelong ambition in 2005 when he joined the army.

"I know he was proud to wear the red hackle of the Black Watch and the cap badge of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.

"Mark was an incredibly enthusiastic, compassionate and very professional soldier who demonstrated great potential for the future.

"He served all over the world, specifically on operations in Northern Ireland, in Iraq and in Afghanistan where he was renowned for his great sense of humour and bravery.

"He made lots of friends and will be sorely missed."

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