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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 29 October, 2002, 21:26 GMT
'I was horrified I was not alone'
Families of dead soldiers
The families want a public inquiry into the deaths

Elaine Higgins has been fighting for six years to find out why her 18-year-old soldier son died from a gunshot to the head while in a non-combat situation in Bosnia.

Until recently she thought she was fighting a one-woman battle, now she knows she is just one of many families trying to find out why their loved ones died while in the Army's care.

It was reading about the families of four soldiers who died in disputed circumstances at Deepcut Army barracks in Surrey that alerted her to the fact she was not alone and she admits it was a bitter-sweet discovery.


Aled loved the Army but every day I have to live with the fact that I signed him into it, I effectively signed his life away

Elaine Higgins
"Finding the other families gave me the strength to carry on the fight, but it also horrified me that so many other people were going though the same thing as me," she said.

"How can so many young people have died when the Army should have been looking after them and why are there so many unanswered questions about their deaths?"

Since 1990 some 1,748 Britons have died from non-natural causes in and around military property.

Elaine's son, Aled Martin Jones, died of a single gunshot to the head. He was in a non-combat situation and the coroner's verdict was suicide.

'Conflicting reports'

It is something Eileen fiercely disputes.

Aled, who was from Chwilog in north Wales, had wanted to join the Army since he was 12 years old.

Elaine signed him up when he was just 16 and the Army became his life.

"Aled loved the Army but every day I have to live with the fact that I signed him into it, I effectively signed his life away," she said.

Elaine Higgins
Elaine Higgins has been fighting for six years
"If I had refused he would be here today. That constantly eats away at me."

Aled had only been in Bosnia with the Queen's Dragoon Guards for three weeks when he died.

From the day Elaine was told of his death she says the Army has given her no answers as to what happened on the night.

"We have been given no reason for Aled's death, no apology," she said.

"All along the way the Army has acted in the most unprofessional way," she claims.

"There had to be two inquests into his death because soldiers asked to give evidence at the first forgot to turn up.

"It devastated me that my son's life meant so little them."

She also says statements and information she has been sent, or allowed to see, is often conflicting.

"I have one letter dated 18 July 1996, the day Aled died," she said.

Fight

"It states that he took his own life, but it was written before there had been any investigation or inquest," she alleges.

"Basically, they had already made their minds up."

She says she will never give up her fight but does not believe she will ever find out what happened to her son.

"I am hitting my head against a brick wall," she said.

"But what drives me on is the hope that a public inquiry will stop this happening to any other families. Hopefully the Army will change."


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