Witch-hunt anger at soldier’s suicide
PRESSURE grew on Boris Johnson to halt the Northern Ireland witch-hunt after a British veteran facing investigation took his life last week.
Former Royal Highland Fusilier Eddie “Spud” Murphy was reportedly found dead on Thursday by his wife.
Mr Murphy, is believed to have survived at least one IRA bomb attack while serving his country.
Details of his death emerged on Twitter where a friend, calling himself Dukesy, wrote: “He served in Northern Ireland, was blown up by the IRA and fortunate to survive.
“More recently he was subject to the historic inquiry witch-hunt. He tried to take his life three times before. This time he succeeded, a victim of the IRA.”
One veteran said the case underlined the double standards in the way incidents are dealt with.
In 1971 three off-duty soldiers from the fusilier’s regiment were lured to their deaths in an IRA honey trap. But no one has ever been convicted and one of the suspects was given a letter guaranteeing he would not be prosecuted. Alan Barry, 55, said: “There’s one rule for the IRA and another for British veterans.”
Veteran Dennis Hutchings, 78, who is seriously ill, warned that the threat of prosecution could drive others to take their lives. Six British veterans already face trial over reinvestigations of incidents dating back to 1972. But hundreds more face re-openings.
Following the Daily Express campaign to halt the witch-hunt, Mr Johnson vowed to end “vexatious” prosecutions within 100 days of the election.
Mr Hutchings, from Cornwall, faces trial next month when he will deny attempted murder. He said: “Mr Murphy’s case is absolutely tragic. If it is because of the witch-hunt I fully understand what he was going through and why he might have done it.
“I had those same thoughts two years ago. Fortunately I am not at that point now. I am fighting them.” The witch-hunt will be branded “discriminatory” in a bid for a judicial review being brought by Mr Hutchings. His lawyers say veterans are 54 times more likely to be prosecuted than IRA terrorists.
The Veterans Support Group said: “We now urgently need the Government to bring in the legislation it has promised.”
Northern Ireland veteran Colonel Richard Kemp also told the Prime Minister to honour his pledge. He said: “It is despicable. He needs to stop it now before we lose any more.”
Johnny Mercer, Defence Minister, said: “This Prime Minister has promised legislation to end vexatious and repeated prosecution of veterans without new evidence. He tasked me to do it. By March 18.And we will.”
A Government spokesman said: “Every part of England now has a dedicated mental health service for veterans.” They could also call the MoD-funded helpline, the Veterans’ Gateway on 0808 802 1212.