8. Mr. Geoffrey Wilson
asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will order an independent inquiry into the circumstances relating to the death of a radar plotter from H.M.S. "Hermes", particulars of which have been sent to him, whose injured body was recovered from the harbour at Malta on 25th February last after he had been missing from his ship for 19 days.
§ Dr. David Owen
This is properly a matter for the Maltese authorities, and the examining magistrate reported yesterday on the outcome of their inquiries; I understand that what amounted to an open verdict was recorded. A full report of the proceedings is being sent to me today and I will write to the hon. Gentleman as soon as I can.
That is unsatisfactory. When a Serviceman dies in peculiar circumstances overseas it is natural that the British public should want to know the reason for his death. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I and others have been asking questions for some time about this affair but that we have not been given any hard information or, to date, any news of what the coroner found in this case? We have merely been told that this man was not murdered. How did his injured body come to be in the harbour at Malta?
§ Dr. Owen
I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's anxiety on this issue, and I have profound sympathy for the relatives of this man. I suggest that he and I should await the full report of the coroner. The delay that has occurred has been due to administrative difficulties and the sickness of the magistrate who acts as coroner in Malta.