Breaking: Coroner refuses to widen scope of inquest into death of Tory activist in Sandy

Elliott Johnson
Elliott Johnson

A coroner has turned down a request to widen the scope of an inquest into the death of a Tory activist.

Elliott Johnson, 21, killed himself by laying down on train tracks in Sandy, on September 15 last year.

His death has sparked a widespread allegations of bullying within Conservative Way Forward, who had employed him.

During a pre-inquest review in Ampthill on Wednesday, Mr Johnson’s family called for senior coroner Tom Osborne to widen the scope of his inquest to include allegations of bullying against the 21-year-old by party members Andre Walker and Mark Clarke.

However Mr Osborne turned down that request in writing this afternoon.

In a statement the coroner said: “In my judgment I do not consider at this stage that it is necessary to call either Mr Walker or Mr Clarke.

“The allegation against them is a blunt one of bullying and betrayal.

“It is difficult to see that, beyond the assertions made by the deceased in his letter, what these potential witnesses could add to the inquest, save for to deny any bullying.

“I emphasise again that an inquest is not a trial.

“The purpose is not to determine whether the allegations of bullying set out in the letters left by Mr Johnson were true and I will not allow the inquest to be used as a tool for putting anyone on trial.

“The purpose of an inquest is not to identify individual fault on the part of those involved.

“Indeed it is expressly not concerned with apportioning blame or determining questions of fault.”

Elliott left a suicide note accusing then party aide Mark Clarke, 38, of bullying and said fellow aide Andre Walker “betrayed” him.

Mr Clarke has since been expelled from the party for life.

Both men deny all allegations against them.

Speaking at Wednesday’s pre-inquest hearing Heather Williams, QC for the Johnson family, argued that its scope should be widened because Elliott’s treatment may have led to his death.

She said: “Elliott’s family believe that his death on September 15, 2015, is directly linked to a series of event which occurred in the last few weeks of his life and in particular the bullying he experienced by Mark Clarke and those associated with him.”

Before his death Elliott made a formal complaint to Conservative HQ about Mr Clarke, the hearing was told.

He tried to withdraw this complaint but was under pressure by Conservative Party members not to.

He was also under pressure to withdraw this complaint during a confrontation in a pub with Mr Clarke and Mr Walker on September 2, the hearing heard.

This led to him feeling like he was in an impossible situation, according to Ms Williams.

Reading out a segment of his suicide note she said: “I have been bullied by Mark Clarke and betrayed by Andre Walker. I had to wrongly turn my back on my friends.

“Now all my political bridges are burnt. Where can I even go from here?”

George Alliott, representing Conservative Way Forward, said only selected parts of the suicide note had so far been made public.

He quoted from a British Transport Police report which said the note also referred to a “failure to give his parents children”, a reference to Elliott’s homosexuality.

“If the scope were to be widened, it is going to have to include reference to Elliott’s mental health and his sexuality,” he added.

Ms Williams dismissed this and said the only part of the note which referred to grandchildren was when Elliott said his death would mean they wouldn’t have any.

Mr Walker, who claims to have been Elliott’s lover, also attended the hearing, against the family’s wishes.