Father of suicide soldier says inquiry will be a cover-up

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A Ministry of Defence inquiry into why a young soldier committed suicide in Lieutenant-Colonel Tim Collins' Royal Irish Regiment will be a cover-up, the dead man's father claimed yesterday.

William Cochrane also accused Lt-Col Collins of failing to keep to his promise to find out what led to Private Paul Cochrane, 18, shooting himself two years ago.

The MoD insisted yesterday that the inquiry into the suicide was standard procedure, has been previously publicised and Lt-Col Collins, the commander of the 1st Battalion, the Royal Irish Regiment, is not the subject of any allegations over the matter.

The ministry also insisted that investigating the "military environment" which existed within the 1st Battalion was also standard when dealing with violent deaths within barracks.

Lt-Col Collins is under investigation for allegedly mistreating Iraqis during the war, including "pistol-whipping" a Baath party official.

Mr Cochrane said he did not blame the colonel for his son's death. He described how the commander had burst into tears on a number of occasions when he came to commiserate with the family.

He continued, "He said at one time, 'I would have walked on broken glass for your son.' He and his wife turned up at Paul's funeral and he cried again then. I have no doubt it was genuine. I am absolutely sure that he did not give Paul a hard time in any way.

"But he also did promise that he would leave no stone unturned to find out what exactly happened. But when we began to ask questions ourselves, the Army stopped having any contact with us and we did not hear from the colonel again."

He said no inquest had been held into Pte Cochrane's death because of delays by the MoD. "The Army tried to blame the coroner, but when we approached him he said he could not hold an inquest because the MoD had not provided him with the relevant paperwork despite two years going by."

Pte Cochrane was recommended for home leave by the regiment's medical officer after losing the hearing in one of his ears, but this was countermanded by another officer. "It was not Lt-Col Collins," said Mr Cochrane, "but we have the name of the officer responsible.

"After being refused leave, Paul wrote to the colonel asking for help, asking him why a regiment which prided itself on being a family regiment had disowned him."