Soldier's father dismisses 'whitewash' report

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A Ministry of Defence report into the suicide of a soldier in Colonel Tim Collins' Royal Irish Regiment was yesterday dismissed as a "whitewash" by the dead man's father.

Private Paul Cochrane's family received the results of an official inquiry into his death at the weekend, which deals with allegations of sexual assault within the regiment and claims that an officer stole money.

The report does not blame Col Collins in any way for Pte Cochrane's death, The Independent has learned. But his family said Col Collins had failed in his promise to the family that he would find out about what led to the suicide.

Col Collins, under investigation for allegedly mistreating Iraqi prisoners during the war, was commander of the 1st Battalion, the Royal Irish Regiment, when Pte Cochrane shot himself at barracks in Belfast, in July 2001.

The dead man's family says he was bullied by superiors - Col Collins was not among them - and he should have received greater protection. Just before he shot himself, permission for medical leave had been rescinded.

The report names a soldier, Richard Vance, who continued to serve in the unit despite three claims against him of sex assaults. He was discharged from the Army and sentenced to two years in prison.

Among the recommendations in the Army report is that guns and ammunition should be stored separately.

The dead soldier's father, William Cochrane, said from his home in Belfast yesterday: "We have waited 23 months for this report, but, at the end, it does not answer any of our questions. This is a whitewash.

"What the report does say is that there were strange goings on at the barracks."

He also described how Col Collins had repeatedly broken down in tears when he came to commiserate with the family. "I don't believe he [Col Collins] was responsible for my son's death," said Mr Cochrane.

A secret tape Pte Cochrane made after a meeting with senior officers was also found mangled in the grounds of the camp a few days after his death.