Soldier arrested on suspicion of murder after corporal's body discovered on Saturday morning


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The Independent Online

A soldier has been arrested on suspicion of murder after a corporal was found dead at an army barracks in Shropshire.

West Mercia Police said it had arrested a 23-year-old man after the body of Corporal Geoffrey McNeill, 32, of 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment, was discovered in a building at the Army’s Clive Barracks.

Detectives said the man taken into custody at Shrewsbury police station was a serving soldier based at the site in Tern Hill, near Market Drayton.

Corporal McNeill's body was found at around 9am on Saturday morning. A post-mortem was carried out over the weekend but further tests have been ordered to try to establish the cause of death, a police spokesman said.

The dead soldier, from Co Antrim in Northern Ireland, is from the same battalion deployed last month to help flood-stricken communities in Worcestershire, after record amounts of rain fell across the UK.

Members of the unit met David Cameron when he toured some of the county's flood defences at Upton-upon-Severn.

Detective Inspector Steve Tonks, of West Mercia Police, said: “We have made an arrest in connection with the death. The investigation is in its early stages and extensive inquiries are continuing.

“A post-mortem conducted by a Home Office pathologist was held yesterday and further examination and tests are being carried out to help establish the cause of death.”

Jason McNeill, brother of the deceased soldier, said: “Geoff was born in Ballymoney, Northern Ireland and dedicated his life to 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment.

“He served his country with the highest degree of honour and dedication. He was a much loved son, brother, uncle and friend and touched the lives of all who had the pleasure of meeting him.”

An MoD spokesman said: “It is with deep regret that we can confirm Corporal Geoffrey McNeill, a serving soldier from 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment, has died. Our thoughts are with the family and friends affected at this difficult time. We are assisting West Mercia Police with their investigation and it would be inappropriate for us to comment any further at this time.”

Clive Barracks opened in 1916 and has been home to 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment since 2007. The unit, which has seen action in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years, returned to its Shropshire barracks after assisting with the flooding civil emergency.

The barracks’ accommodation block was the scene of an attempted IRA bomb attack in 1989.

And in 1998, prior to the arrival of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment, Clive Barracks was at the centre of a “bullying” court martial. Army recruits became a “human xylophone” when their corporal forced them to sing musical notes as he hit them on the buttocks with a baseball bat, the court martial heard.

A year later an army corporal collapsed and died on his way back to the Barracks after taking a cocktail of alcohol and drugs. An inquest found that Corporal Lee Pinner had taken an overdose of painkillers and sleeping tablets and drunk 10 pints of lager and three vodkas.

In 1997, the 1st Battalion of the Staffordshire Regiment, also based at Clive Barracks, was subject to an inquiry by the special investigation branch of the Royal Military Police into alleged managerial “irregularities” and disciplinary issues.