Widen inquest to explore bullying argue lawyers for family of Wisbech Tory activist Elliott Johnson
- Credit: Archant
Lawyers representing the family of a young Tory activist from Wisbech who killed himself will argue that an inquest into his death should be widened to explore allegations of bullying within the Conservative Party.
Elliott Johnson was found dead on railway tracks in Bedfordshire in September. Weeks earlier, he had raised allegations about the way he was being treated in the Conservative youth wing.
The Johnson family, from Wisbech, will use a pre-inquest hearing in Ampthill to argue for the scope of a full inquest be broadened to explore the culture in the Conservative Party at the time.
Ahead of the hearing, Elliott’s father said plans by one of his son’s alleged bullies to attend an inquest hearing are like “the murderer returning to the scene of the crime”.
A suicide note left by the 21-year-old named former activist Mark Clarke as a bully, adding that he felt betrayed by lobby journalist and former political adviser Andre Walker.
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Mr Walker, who claims he was in a relationship with Elliott at the time of his death, plans to attend the hearing and has protested his innocence.
He told the Press Association he felt only selected evidence had so far been made public and he hoped a mental health report would be read to the hearing clarifying Elliott’s state of mind.
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He added: “I just want to see what happens. I’ve been subject to constant attacks and partial truths in the media and I want to hear the evidence for myself.
“I can’t win: If I go the family will be unhappy, but if I stay away they’ll say I can’t even be bothered to attend.”
There is no suggestion Mr Clarke will attend the hearing, although he may send legal representatives.
Elliott’s father Ray Johnson, from Wisbech, responded by saying: “I have no idea why he’s planning on attending.
“It’s a public hearing and it’s entirely up to him, but all it will do is add discomfort to the family and serve as an act of intimidation.
“We do not wish for him to be there and he will not be welcome - it’s tantamount to the murderer returning to the scene of the crime.”
Mr Johnson said he placed “no credibility whatsoever” in Mr Walker’s claims of a relationship with his son.
“We have plenty of evidence in the form of telephone messages and emails and none of that suggests any kind of relationship - in fact it suggests quite the opposite,” he added.
“He has only broken cover in the last few days with the pre-inquest hearing about to take place.
“He has obviously got an agenda. He is worried and he’s got something to hide.”
In the note released by the Johnson family, Elliott wrote: “I have been bullied by Mark Clarke and betrayed by Andre Walker. Now all my bridges are burnt.
“Where can I go from here? I am sorry it has come to this and hope you can recover after a time.”
However, Mr Walker said that his involvement had been misrepresented. He said that he had been denied the chance to properly grieve or attend Elliott’s funeral.
Mr Walker added that he does not recognise the picture painted of him as a bully in the months since Elliott took his own life.
He said: “Mr Johnson seems to have already made up his mind about who is to blame.
“He decided incredibly early on that Mark Clarke killed his son and I was his assistant.
“As a result it is not a campaign for justice, it’s a campaign to destroy the people he has decided are responsible.
“There are a whole host of issues, including mental health and concerns around his sexuality, which contributed to Elliott’s death.”
Elliott had alleged bullying a month before his death, sparking an investigation and the resignation of former party chairman Grant Shapps.
The allegations centre on the activities of former activist Mr Clarke, who has since been expelled from the party. Mr Clarke has strongly denied the allegations against him.
Pressure has continued to mount despite Mr Shapps’ resignation. Party chairman Lord Feldman has faced calls to quit amid claims - which he has denied - that he was aware of bullying in the youth wing.
Downing Street has stressed that Lord Feldman retains the “full confidence” of Prime Minister David Cameron.