The family of Troubles veteran Dennis Hutchings demanded that troops transport his coffin amid growing opposition towards the Ministry of Defence 

The Telegraph reports that the Ministry of Defence (MoD), has stated that Mr Hutchings can’t have military pallbearers transport his coffin since he wasn’t serving as a soldier at the time of his death.

After being charged with the 50 year-old murder of John Pat Cunningham, Mr Hutchings was suffering from kidney failure and needed dialysis three times per week. However, he travelled to Belfast to face his murder trial.

The veteran, originally from Cawsand (Cornwall), died. Covid was contracted during the trial, and the veteran died earlier in this month.

Dennis Hutchings (pictured) waves to supporters as he arrives at court earlier this month

Dennis Hutchings (pictured), wave to supporters when he arrives at court earlier this year

 Mr Hutching’s family have said that Jimmy Savile, the BBC presenter, one of the most prolific sex offenders in British history, had seven Royal Marines carrying his coffin.

They believe the 80-year old is not allowed to have a military funeral due to his charges for the shooting and trial.  

Although Mr Hutchings couldn’t clear his name due to his death, questions were raised by unionist MPs about the decision not to prosecute him almost fifty years later.

John Hutchings, his 48-year-old son, said yesterday that his father was being denied military pallbearers despite having served 26 years in Army. Jimmy Savile, however, had Royal Marines carry his coffin. 

‘How can they give Jimmy Savile a military send-off but not my father? It’s disgusting.

Mr Hutching's family have said that Jimmy Savile (pictured), the BBC presenter, one of the most prolific sex offenders in British history, had seven Royal Marines carrying his coffin

His family claims that Jimmy Savile, a BBC presenter who was one of the most prolific sex-offenders in British history, had seven Royal Marines carry his coffin.

His son is writing to Ben Wallace, Defence Secretary, asking him to reconsider the decision ahead of the Armistice Day funeral which will be attended to by thousands of veterans.  

Johnny Mercer was a Conservative MP and was a friend of Mr Hutchings. He accompanied him to Belfast’s trial. He also blasted the Ministry of Defence for making the decision.  

Mr. Mercer said, “I don’t understand why we have to.” [have]This is a merry-go round that makes ministers and the MoD look stupid. Get on with it, and support your family.

He claimed that Mr Hutchings never was convicted of anything, and that it was an ‘extraordinary’ decision because the Secretary-of-State is a Northern Ireland veteran.

The MP said that there are some things that are very ‘clear’, and this is one. He said that the moral guideline had been removed and was being replaced by ‘political expediency.   

He stated that military leaders were ‘dodging’ and that he blamed ministers and commanding officers for preventing the request from the Troubles veteran.  

The former defence minister Johnny Mercer (pictured left), a Conservative MP, who was a close friend of Mr Hutchings and accompanied him to the trial in Belfast (pictured), blasted the Ministry of Defence over the decision

Johnny Mercer, a former defence minister (pictured left), was a Conservative MP who was a close friend of Mr Hutchings. He accompanied him to the trial at Belfast (pictured). He blasted the Ministry of Defence for the decision

Mr Hutchings died of Covid-19 during a murder trial in Belfast over a fatal shooting 50 years ago

Mr Hutchings was fighting to clear his name

He had been tried 50 years earlier for a fatal shooting.

Supporters gathered outside court for Mr Hutchings, who could not clear his name as he died

Supporters gathered outside of the courthouse to support Mr Hutchings, but he couldn’t clear his name because he had died.

Savile’s funeral, after he had died in 2011, at the age 84, saw him buried at Leeds Cathedral with a green beret.

Although he never served in the military, he had strong ties to the Royal Marines.

After his death, it was revealed that he had been a serial predator of sex and had abused children in hospitals, schools, and at BBC.

It was also discovered that Savile had abused patients at Broadmoor psychiatric hospital.  

Devon and Cornwall Police opened a 2013 investigation into allegations Savile had abused children at Lympstone, the main training camp of Royal Marines. 

It is not clear if the children and alleged victims were serving soldiers or cadets. 

The funeral of Savile after he died in 2011 aged 84 saw him buried with a green beret at Leeds Cathedral. He never served in the military but had ties to the Royal Marines and his coffin was carried by military

After his death in 2011, aged 84, Savile’s funeral was held at Leeds Cathedral. He was buried with a green vest. Although he never served in the military, he had strong ties to the Royal Marines. His coffin was also carried by military personnel.

Last week, the MoD said in a statement that Mr Hutchings was not a soldier and could not have pallbearers.

As Mr Hutching is buried next month, his family previously requested that there be no political messages at his funeral.  

They want as many people to attend as possible, but they don’t need banners, slogans, speeches. 

Mr. Mercer was also upset that MoD officials, politicians and politicians had not confirmed that his friend’s coffin will be carried by Soldiers from the Life Guards at the funeral. 

Supporters stand outside court to protest against Mr Hutchings trial

Supporters protest outside the court against Mr Hutchings’ trial

Before the decision to not have soldiers carry Mr Hutchings coffin was announced in an MoD statement, Mr Mercer told MailOnline:  ‘I still can’t get an answer as to whether Dennis’ family will get his wish.

‘Ministers claim it is for Commanding Officers; Commanding officers then blame Ministers.

“It’s not difficult for someone to make an important decision, but it encapsulates how difficult it has been to ensure Dennis is taken care of.

“Frankly, it’s getting tiring of reading the scathing emails and letters from retired Ministers and Military Officers about this man’s treatment. But they did nothing to help him when they had the chance or were too afraid to speak up now.

“I have never understood the shame we seem able to feel towards this generation of Veterans. They are proud of me and the rest of the country. As am I. 

Mr Hutchings greets a supporter outside court during his trial

Outside the courtroom, Mr Hutchings meets a supporter during his trial

Each regiment can decide whether or not it offers military funerals to retired soldiers.

The family of Mr Hutchings was told, however, that it couldn’t be accommodated because he wasn’t serving anymore.

John, John’s son, stated that he only had one question for the Life Guards in the last six-and a half years. [since Mr Hutchings’ arrest]That is why you need to have pallbearers dressed in uniform.

‘I was told you had to be a military soldier, but he was there for his service as an officer. It’s out of order.

“He served 26-years in the Army and put his life at risk. The decision is really disappointing. Dad loved the Life Guards.

Kim Devonshire (the partner of Mr Hutchings) added that he was on trial in Northern Ireland fighting for the rights of all the soldiers.

“He represented more 200 soldiers who could still get prosecuted for their service in Northern Ireland.”

Major Derek Stratford was a Life Guards officer who served alongside Mr Hutchings. He said he contacted Life Guards Association on Friday in order to request pallbearers.

He claimed that he was told by the commanding officer that it couldn’t be arranged at this time and date because he had been told otherwise.

The 88-year old added, “I think it oughta be and I’m disgusted that he can’t have.”

Ben Wallace (pictured), who served in the Scots Guards, stoked a military row last weekend as he appeared to back Mr Hutchings' family

Ben Wallace (pictured), who was a Scots Guards soldier, stoked an internal military row last weekend by appearing to support Mr Hutchings.

Ben Wallace, a Scots Guards veteran, stoked a conflict by appearing to support Mr Hutchings’ family last weekend.

Mr Wallace stated that he would allow pallbearers to attend his funeral if the commanding officer is willing. He served his country and has not been convicted.

“I directed the actual event.” [MoD]To help bring his body home from Northern Ireland or to facilitate it.

Mr Hutchings’ family asked that everyone who wishes to attend the veteran’s funeral does not turn it into an event for political purposes.

They released a statement saying that Dennis’ family was aware of the interest shown by those who attended his funeral.

“The family is grateful for all the support over the years and look forward to welcoming everyone to Plymouth on November 11. All are welcome.

Flags are allowed, but banners are not. The family specifically asked that there be no political slogans or speeches on the day.

According to the MoD, “The MoD supported Mr Hutchings through his trial with legal representations and pastoral care, which will continue being offered to his family.”

The spokesperson added that they had not been approached to be pallbearers for the funeral. The Life Guards Association declined comment.

The funeral for Mr Hutchings is at St Andrew’s Church in Plymouth on November 11, Remembrance Day.  

Dennis Hutchings: Army Veteran pursued over historical Northern Ireland allegations… but there was no proof

The veteran (pictured when younger) was facing trial over the attempted murder of John Pat Cunningham in 1974

The trial for the attempted murder of John Pat Cunningham was being held by the veteran (pictured when he was younger).

Dennis Hutchings was being tried for the attempted murder John Pat Cunningham.

In June 1974, he was running from a British Army Patrol in Benburb (Co Tyrone).

Mr Hutchings required kidney dialysis twice weekly and has heart problems. He was in the British Army 26 years.

He was in Northern Ireland for five tours during the worst of the Troubles.

The events of the mid-1970s were so shocking that the former corporal major was cleared twice.

Despite the absence of new evidence, witnesses, or forensic leads to support his claim, the retired soldier was still accused of attempted murder.

Mr Hutchings is photographed on the far right in this picture from his time in in Germany in 1960

In this 1960 photograph, Mr Hutchings can be seen on the far right.

What is the timeline for the Northern Ireland Troubles and Peace Process? 

Police officers and firefighters inspecting the damage caused by a bomb explosion in Market Street, Omagh, 1998

Police officers and firefighters inspecting the damage caused by a bomb explosion in Market Street, Omagh, 1998

August 1969

After three days of violence in Catholic Londonderry, the British Government first sent troops into Northern Ireland.

30 January 1972

On ‘Bloody Sunday’  13 civilians are shot dead by the British Army during a civil rights march in Londonderry.

March 1972

The Stormont Government has been disbanded and London has taken direct control. 


The IRA began its bloody campaign against Britain’s assassins. 

April 1981

Bobby Sands is a republican on hunger strike in Maze prison and is elected to Parliament. He dies one month later.

October 1984

An IRA bomb explodes in Brighton’s Grand Hotel, where Margaret Thatcher is staying during her Tory Party tenure. Conference

Early 1990s

Margaret Thatcher and Sir John Major established a secret back channel with IRA to begin peace talks. The communications were so secret that even ministers didn’t know. 

April 1998

Tony Blair was instrumental in brokering the Good Friday Agreement, which has been hailed as the end for the Troubles. 

It establishes Northern Ireland Assembly with David Trimble its first minister.


With some exceptions, the peace process is held and republican paramilitaries loyalists decommission their arms.

May 2011

The Queen and Prince Philip visit Ireland for the first time since George V’s 1911 tour. 

In a moment of great symbolism, the Queen is seen shaking hands with Martin McGuinness, a former leader of the IRA.