Newport mother's plea to MoD after death

A mother who learned on the web that her soldier ex-partner had died is calling for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to change its procedures.

Paula Black learned L/Cpl Richard Gotts, father of her daughter Tegan, had died during army service when she read tributes on a gaming forum.

Ms Black, of Newport, wants the MoD to change the way it deals with children whose parents have split up.

The MoD said it went to "considerable lengths" to notify next of kin.

L/Cpl Gotts was serving in Iraq with the army when his partner, Paula Black, gave birth to their daughter in 2006.

Just over a year later, by which time the couple had split up, he died after a heart attack.

She says his two ex-wives, with whom he has children, were notified by an Mod official.

However, Ms Black was not because Mr Gotts had not named Tegan as his next of kin and the couple had never married.

When he failed to get in touch, she visited a gaming forum she knew he used, and discovered he had died.

She said: "There were about 40 or 50 messages of 'rest in peace' to him from friends all over the world and country who knew him.

"And that's how I found out he was dead."

She said she felt "absolutely devastated, distraught, angry - very angry that I hadn't been notified in person by the MoD themselves - and just shock.

"I just couldn't believe that I was reading that he was dead on a gaming forum."

Image caption Paula Black wants the MoD to change its rules regarding notifying next of kin

She added: "The MoD were aware of my child first and foremost - he was paying directly from his army salary through the Child Support Agency for her.

"His army barracks were well aware of me and his daughter. They had my contact details and they should've formally notified me of his death."

Ms Black has launched an online group called The Forgotten Children of the Armed Forces Support Group, encouraging servicemen and women to stipulate who they want contacted in the event of their death.

She also wants the MoD to review its next of kin policy.

An MOD spokesperson said: "In the event of the death of a member of service personnel, the Ministry of Defence goes to considerable lengths to ensure that the next of kin and any additional person previously nominated by the deceased are notified first and in an appropriate manner.

"A minimum 24-hour period of grace is then observed before any details are made public so that the information can be passed on to other relatives."

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