‘Even Jimmy Savile had a military funeral’: Disgusted family of Troubles veteran Dennis Hutchings demand troops carry coffin at his funeral amid growing backlash at Ministry of Defence for refusing the honour
The family of Troubles veteran Dennis Hutchings have demanded troops carry his coffin amid growing backlash towards the Ministry of Defence.
But the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has said that Mr Hutchings cannot have military pallbearers carrying his coffin because he was not serving as a soldier when he died, according to the Telegraph.
Mr Hutchings was ill with kidney failure and required dialysis three times a week but travelled to Belfast to stand trial for murder after being charged for his alleged part in the fatal shooting of John Pat Cunningham 50 years ago.
The veteran, from Cawsand, Cornwall. contracted Covid during the trial and died earlier this month.
Dennis Hutchings (pictured) waves to supporters as he arrives at court earlier this month
Mr Hutching’s family have said that Jimmy Savile, the BBC presenter, one of the most prolific sex offenders in British history, had seven Royal Marines carrying his coffin.
They think the 80-year-old is not being allowed a military funeral because of his charge for the shooting and the trial.
Mr Hutchings could not clear this name because of his death but questions were raised since he passed away from unionist MPs about the decision to prosecute him almost 50 years later.
His son John Hutchings, 48, said yesterday: ‘It is shocking that my dad is being refused military pallbearers after serving 26 years in the Army and yet Jimmy Savile had Royal Marines carry his coffin.
‘How can they give Jimmy Savile a military send-off but not my father? It’s disgusting.’
Mr Hutching’s family have said that Jimmy Savile (pictured), the BBC presenter, one of the most prolific sex offenders in British history, had seven Royal Marines carrying his coffin
Ahead of the funeral on Armistice Day which will be attended by thousands of veterans, his son is writing to the Defence Secretary Ben Wallace pleading with him to change the decision.
The former defence minister Johnny Mercer, a Conservative MP, who was a close friend of Mr Hutchings and accompanied him to the trial in Belfast, also blasted the Ministry of Defence over the decision.
Mr Mercer said: ‘I don’t know why we have to [have]this merry-go-round which makes the MoD and ministers look stupid. Get on with it and support the family.’
He said Mr Hutchings was never convicted of anything and that it is ‘extraordinary’ because the Secretary of State is a Northern Ireland veteran.
The MP said some things are very ‘clear’ and this is one of them and said the moral compass had been taken out and replaced with ‘political expediency.’
He previously said military bosses were ‘dodging’ and ‘blaming commanding offciers and ministers’ for blocking the request of the Troubles veteran and his family.
The former defence minister Johnny Mercer (pictured left), a Conservative MP, who was a close friend of Mr Hutchings and accompanied him to the trial in Belfast (pictured), blasted the Ministry of Defence over the decision
At the time Mr Hutchings died, he had been brought for trial for a fatal shooting 50 years ago
Supporters gathered outside court for Mr Hutchings, who could not clear his name as he died
The funeral of Savile after he died in 2011 aged 84 saw him buried with a green beret at Leeds Cathedral.
He never served in the military but had ties to the Royal Marines .
After his death he was revealed as a serial sex offender who had abused children and pensioners in schools, hospitals and at the BBC.
It was also uncovered that Savile had abused people at psychiatric hospitals including Broadmoor.
Devon and Cornwall Police opened an investigation in 2013 into allegations that Savile had abused children at the main training camp of the Royal Marines, Lympstone near Exeter.
It is not known if the children and alleged victims of the assaults were those of serving soldiers or cadets.
The funeral of Savile after he died in 2011 aged 84 saw him buried with a green beret at Leeds Cathedral. He never served in the military but had ties to the Royal Marines and his coffin was carried by military
The MoD insisted last week in a statement that Mr Hutchings could not have pallbearers from the military because he was not a serving soldier.
Mr Hutching’s relatives previously appealed for no political messaging at his funeral as he is buried next month.
They want as many people who want to go to attend but have asked for no banners, slogans or speeches.
Mr Mercer was also left outraged previously as MoD officials and politicians had not confirmed if his friend’s coffin would be carried by soldiers from the Life Guards at his funeral.
Supporters stand outside court to protest against Mr Hutchings trial
Before the decision to not have soldiers carry Mr Hutchings coffin was announced in an MoD statement, Mr Mercer told MailOnline: ‘I still can’t get an answer as to whether Dennis’ family will get his wish.
‘Ministers claim its for Commanding Officers to decide; Commanding Officers then blame Ministers.
‘It’s not hard for someone to make a decision, but encapsulates how difficult this has been to make sure Dennis is looked after.
‘Frankly I’m a little tired of reading all the vexed letters and emails from retired Military Officers and Ministers who decry the appalling treatment of this man, but did nothing to help him when they had the opportunity, or are too frightened to raise their head in public now.
‘I’ve never understood the shame we seem to have towards this generation of Veterans. I know the wider country is fiercely proud of them. As am I.’
Mr Hutchings greets a supporter outside court during his trial
It is up to each regiment to decide whether it grants military funerals for retired soldiers.
But Mr Hutchings’ family were reportedly told it could not be accommodated because he was no longer serving.
His son John said: ‘I have only asked the Life Guards one thing in the last six-and-a-half years [since Mr Hutchings’ arrest] and that is to have pallbearers in uniform.
‘I was told you have to be a serving soldier but he was in court for his service as a soldier. It’s bang out of order.
‘He served 26 years in the Army, put his life on the line. I’m really, really disappointed with the decision. Dad loved the Life Guards.’
Mr Hutchings’ partner, Kim Devonshire, added: ‘He was on trial in Northern Ireland fighting on behalf of all the other soldiers, so he was still serving.
‘He was representing more than 200 soldiers who could still be prosecuted over their service in Northern Ireland.’
Major Derek Stratford, who served alongside Mr Hutchings in the Life Guards, said he contacted the Life Guards Association on Friday to request pallbearers.
He said he was told ‘the commanding officer had said no, it can’t be arranged in this day and time’.
The 88-year-old added: ‘I think it ought to be and I’m disgusted he can’t have it.’
Ben Wallace (pictured), who served in the Scots Guards, stoked a military row last weekend as he appeared to back Mr Hutchings’ family
Ben Wallace, who served in the Scots Guards, stoked a military row last weekend as he appeared to back Mr Hutchings’ family.
Mr Wallace said: ‘If he wants pallbearers at his funeral and the commanding officer is willing to release them, he served his country, he’s not been convicted of anything.
‘I did actually direct the [MoD] to help bring his body back from Northern Ireland, or facilitate it.’
Mr Hutchings family requested all those who want to come to the veteran’s funeral not to turn it into a political rally.
They said in a statement: ‘The family are aware of the great deal of interest from those who supported Dennis in attending his funeral.
‘The family are grateful for all the incredible support over many years and are looking forward to welcoming as many people as can make it to Plymouth on November 11. All are welcome.
‘Flags are permitted, banners are not. The family have specifically requested no political slogans, speeches or banners on the day.’
The MoD said: ‘The MoD supported Mr Hutchings throughout his trial with legal representation and pastoral care, which will continue to be offered to his family.’
The spokesman added: ‘We have not been approached to provide pallbearers for the funeral.’ A spokesman for the Life Guards Association declined to comment.
The funeral for Mr Hutchings will be at St Andrew’s Church in Plymouth on November 11, which is also Remembrance Day.
Dennis Hutchings: Army veteran pursued over historic Northern Ireland allegations… for which there was no proof
The veteran (pictured when younger) was facing trial over the attempted murder of John Pat Cunningham in 1974
Dennis Hutchings was facing trial over the attempted murder of John Pat Cunningham.
He was shot running from a British Army patrol in Benburb, Co Tyrone, back in June 1974.
Mr Hutchings, who required kidney dialysis twice a week and has heart problems, was in the British Army for 26 years.
He served five tours of Northern Ireland when the Troubles were at their worst.
The former corporal major was cleared twice over the events which took place in the mid-1970s.
Despite no fresh evidence, no witnesses and no new forensic leads, the retired soldier was accused again of attempted murder.
Mr Hutchings is photographed on the far right in this picture from his time in in Germany in 1960
What is the timeline of the Northern Ireland troubles and peace process?
Police officers and firefighters inspecting the damage caused by a bomb explosion in Market Street, Omagh, 1998
British Government first send troops into Northern Ireland after three days of rioting in Catholic Londonderry.
30 January 1972
On ‘Bloody Sunday’ 13 civilians are shot dead by the British Army during a civil rights march in Londonderry.
The Stormont Government is dissolved and direct rule imposed by London.
The IRA begin its bloody campaign of bombings and assassinations in Britain.
Bobby Sands, a republicans on hunger strike in the Maze prison, is elected to Parliament. He dies a month later.
An IRA bomb explodes at the Grand Hotel in Brighton, where Margaret Thatcher is staying during the Tory Party. conference
Margaret Thatcher and then Sir John Major set up a secret back channel with the IRA to start peace talks. The communications was so secret most ministers did not know about it.
Tony Blair helps to broker the Good Friday Agreement, which is hailed as the end of the Troubles.
It establishes the Northern Ireland Assembly with David Trimble as its first minister.
With some exceptions the peace process holds and republican and loyalist paramilitaries decommission their weapons.
The Queen and Prince Philip make a state visit to Ireland, the first since the 1911 tour by George V.
In a hugely symbolic moment, the Queen is pictured shaking hands with Martin McGuinness – a former IRA leader.