Unanswered questions remain over navigator's death

PUBLISHED: 16:44 21 November 2009 | UPDATED: 11:03 07 July 2010

Norfolk's coroner has joined an MP to demand that military investigators end two years of unanswered questions about the bizarre death of a civilian navigator.

Norfolk's coroner has joined an MP to demand that military investigators end two years of unanswered questions about the bizarre death of a civilian navigator.

Saturday marked the second anniversary of the death of BAE Systems employee Mike Harland, who fell from a 1,400mph Tornado bomber as it performed a roll on a test flight from RAF Marham.

The Ministry of Defence launched a Board of Inquiry (BOI) immediately after the 44-year-old's body was found on a disused airfield at Egmere.

But although the top-level investigation has been completed, its results have still not been made public.

A MoD spokesman said until additional inquiries - including those by military police - were finished, the findings could not be released in case they prejudiced a coroner's inquest.

But that inquest, which was opened and adjourned a few days after Mr Harland's death, cannot continue until the report is handed over.

Greater Norfolk coroner William Armstrong said he had convened a meeting with MoD officials to demand an explanation for the delay.

“I am extremely concerned we have not yet received the report,” he said. “It is delaying the inquest, which is regrettable and unsatisfactory. We have asked for a meeting with a view to be given an explanation for the delay and a timescale for the report to be issued. The family has suffered a traumatic loss and it is in their interests that the inquest should take place as soon as possible.”

A MoD spokesman said: “Although the Tornado BOI actually only took around five months to complete, other important and necessary activities have contributed to the total time taken for the report to be ready for release. These include investigations by the civil police and the RAF police. While we appreciate this activity is taking time, we must allow it to run its course before publishing the report.”

While no details have been given, the MoD has released the number of recommendations made to “address the issues surrounding the incident”. Of the 37 recommendations made so far, 16 have already been implemented and most of the rest are expected to be completed by the end of this year.

A Norfolk police spokesman said the constabulary's part of the investigation had concluded there was no criminal culpability in the accident, and its findings were passed back to the BOI last year.

Mr Harland was married with two children and lived in Lincolnshire.

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