A four-month-old baby whose father was killed in a Taliban bomb attack in Afghanistan is being denied compensation because paternity cannot be proved.
David Cameron has pledged to tackle the “dreadful situation”, which means Lexie-Mai is not recognised as the daughter of Private Daniel Wade.
Pte Wade, of 3rd Battalion, the Yorkshire Regiment, died alongside five comrades on the borders of Helmand Province in March this year when their armoured fighting vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device. The 20-year-old was engaged to Emma Hickman, 19, who was pregnant with their child.
In Prime Ministers’ Questions, David Mowat, Conservative MP for Warrington South, said: “The Army will not accept paternity without evidence; nor will it release the DNA without a court order. As a consequence, Lexie-Mai receives nothing.”
After her local MP highlighted her case, Ms Hickman said: “Daniel never got to meet Lexie-Mai and sadly he won’t experience the joy of watching her growing up. It has been a long, hard journey to recognise Daniel as Lexie’s father.
“All I’ve ever asked is for the MoD to cooperate with me so that Lexie can grow up proud of her dad. That is what Daniel would have wanted.”
David Cameron promised to “move quickly and get this sorted”, but admitted there could be a legal wrangle over Ms Hickman’s case. In some cases, soldiers’ tissue samples are retained – either when the Royal Military Police recover samples while investigating operational deaths, or if service personnel voluntarily hand over a DNA sample before deployment.
But that’s no guarantee that a paternity test will take place. The legal restrictions surrounding this material are very strict, and its release would require either the permission of the deceased’s legal representative or the imposition of a court order.
Mr Mowat told The Independent: “As far as the army is concerned, [Emma] is not the next of kin,” adding that there had been difficulties in persuading Pte Wade’s representatives to allow access to the DNA.
“Emma has to get a court order, and it’s a big job for someone who’s 19 years old. She has to take on the system. Hopefully the Prime Minister will get this moving. If it’s his baby, then some compensation should be going to the mother. We just need the DNA test to happen and that will prove it one way or another.”
Mr Mowat said the Ministry of Defence should “routinely” hold DNA samples for use in similar circumstances, “as happens in other countries, such as the United States”.
An MOD spokesperson said: “There are complicated legal issues affecting this case. We remain in close contact with Miss Hickman and have advised her on how she can take her case forward.”
In a statement released earlier this year, the MOD released a statement portraying Pte Wade as a “family man”, who was “devoted to his fiancée Emma, with whom he is expecting a baby girl called Lexie”.
Last week, Ms Hickman and Lexie-Mai attended a homecoming parade of Pte Wade’s colleagues in the Corunna Company of the 3rd Battallion. They stood among hundreds of well-wishers, and wore pink hooded tops emblazoned with a photograph of the fallen soldier.
According to the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency, the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme offers “eligible” children of soldiers whose deaths originated from service a child allowance. These payments are handed out until the child reaches 16 while they continue in full-time education.
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