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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 December, 2003, 13:33 GMT
Secret of duke's plane death
Margaret Harris with a picture of her uncle
Margaret Harris says she believes the duke was piloting the aircraft
A pensioner left with a family secret ever since a royal was killed in a wartime plane crash has spoken out to protect her dead uncle's memory.

Margaret Harris, from Prestatyn, is the niece of the sole survivor of the accident which killed 15 people including the Duke of Kent, the Queen's uncle.

She claims that for years her family have been burdened with the truth of what happened on that fateful day in August 1942.

Mrs Harris, 69, says the duke was piloting the ill-fated aircraft and a mysterious, unnamed person on board could have been the married royal's boyfriend.

The controversial duke was said to be a bisexual drug taker who had an affair with playwright Noel Coward.

He died when the Sunderland flying boat crashed in Scotland on its way to Iceland.

An official inquiry later ruled that an aircraft pilot was flying the plane and he was blamed for the accident.

However, in a new twist, Mrs Harris says the duke himself was actually behind the controls and she has finally revealed what her uncle, Flight Sergeant Andrew Jack, said happened in the crash.

Flt Sgt Andrew Jack
Sgt Jack was the sole survivor of the crash in August 1942

"He[my uncle] actually pulled him out of the pilot's position," she said.

It was her uncle Flight Sergeant Jack, who died in 1976, dragged the duke's body out of the wreckage.

Her uncle, who later married and had two sons, was devastated that his colleagues on board the flying boat were blamed for the crash when he believed it was the fault of the duke.

"What got to him was his mates being blamed for an accident that wasn't their fault," she added.

But she said pressure was brought to bear on her uncle to keep the facts of what happened hidden.

"He was left in no doubt it was to remain a secret. He was in hospital and with burnt, bandaged hands he had to sign a paper, possibly the Official Secrets Act."

Confidence

Sgt Jack was visited in hospital by the duke's mother Queen Mary and his widow but Mrs Harris said he could not keep what he saw a secret from his family.

"He only told my dad in confidence, it became to much for him one night and he told him.

"A mysterious extra person was on the plane he said.

"He never, ever mentioned who the person was and he never went into detail of whether it was a man or a woman.

"But he did say it was someone who shouldn't have been on (the plane).

"I think that perhaps that extra person might've had a bearing on the situation. Also the duke was not supposed to be flying that plane and they wouldn't want him blamed for people's deaths."

The pensioner said she hopes people will now finally believe what her uncle had kept hidden once and for all.




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