Corporal Douglas Hughes
The grieving mother of a dead Kiwi soldier asked for the
return of his clothes but was told they were burned as the
items were considered "bio-toxic".
An Army also investigator told Venus Poa she may never know
the truth about the death of her son in Afghanistan last
She replied: "We are Ngapuhi - we will get to the truth,
however long it takes."
Corporal Douglas Hughes, 26, of Kaikohe, died on April 3 last
year and his body was returned to New Zealand soon after for
burial with full military ceremony at Pakotai, 50km
north-west of Whangarei.
The Army released no details about his death other than
saying it was the result of a non-combat incident and
Corporal Hughes had been off-duty at the time.
A military Court of Inquiry began into the death and Ms Poa
and her family waited patiently, believing they would be
contacted by a coroner and they would learn exactly what had
happened to "Dougie", the much-loved son, brother or nephew
they were so proud of serving his country.
Instead, they were notified last month that Coroner Gordon
Matenga had found that Corporal Hughes' death was suicide and
publication of all evidence about it, including the report of
the Court of Inquiry, was prohibited.
Also, Mr Matenga said he was satisfied the Court of Inquiry
had adequately investigated the death so no coronial inquiry
would take place. And more would happen to dismay the young
man's still grieving mother.
"I asked the Army for Dougie's clothes and was told they had
been burned because they were considered bio-toxic," Ms Poa
"I requested the mortuary paperwork relating to his death and
was told it had been shredded.
"I asked for his baseball cap to be returned and they said
that would happen. But I got a phone call yesterday saying
they were very sorry but they had got rid of that hat too."
Ms Poa has been provided with part of the Court of Inquiry
report, which she says discloses a sergeant and trooper were
with her son immediately before his death.
The report also claimed Corporal Hughes was gay, which Ms Poa
says the Army is using as an excuse to hush up the
circumstances surrounding the death.
She is unembarrassed by the revelation of homosexuality,
although she maintains Dougie had phoned less than four
months before his death to say he was intending to resume a
relationship with a former girlfriend when he returned to New
Corporal Hughes was due to return home three weeks after his
death and his mother is convinced he would never have taken
his own life.
The Court of Inquiry documents she had seen contained
allegations of homosexuality by unnamed people and she wanted
She has applied to Solicitor General Mike Heron for an
inquest to be held.
A spokeswoman from his office, Jan Fulstow, said it could
take some time for him to review the case.
She said Mr Heron would also be looking into a complaint that
a newspaper had breached the coroner's suppression of the
report of the Court of Inquiry.
- By Mike Barrington of the Northern Advocate