Mum: Army hiding truth into soldier's death

By Mike Barrington -
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. Photo / CPL Brad Hanson
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. Photo / CPL Brad Hanson

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 investigator also told Venus Poa she may never know the truth about the death of her son in Afghanistan last year.

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 said.

"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 Zealand.

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 facts.

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.

For more articles from this region, go to

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n1 at 21 Aug 2014 03:44:27 Processing Time: 470ms