Cambourne : Uncertainty over soldier's death

A SOLDIER who died when his car crashed into a bridge stanchion was distant and tired the day before his death. An open, narrative, verdict was recorded in the case of Sergeant John McDonald, 42, of School Lane, Cambourne. He died on December 3 last yea

A SOLDIER who died when his car crashed into a bridge stanchion was "distant and tired" the day before his death.

An open, narrative, verdict was recorded in the case of Sergeant John McDonald, 42, of School Lane, Cambourne.

He died on December 3 last year when his car, a yellow Dodge Charger, left the A428 near the junction with Scotland Road and crashed into the concrete stanchion.

An inquest at Cambridge Coroner's Court heard that Sgt McDonald, who was stationed at RAF Wattisham in Suffolk, had been given permission to leave the base. He spoke to his wife on the phone at 8am, but was not heard from for the rest of the day.


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Witness Deborah Cooper was driving towards her home in Dry Drayton when she saw Mr McDonald's car leave the A428, near the Scotland Road interchange, at about 4pm.

She said: "It was driving along the grass verge. It didn't change its speed and showed no sign of slowing down.

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"The next thing I saw was a cloud of dust in my rear view mirror."

Sgt McDonald had attended a review meeting with an officer from RAF Wattisham, Sergeant Pickston, on the day before the crash.

He reported no issues, but Sgt Pickston later noted that he appeared "distant and tired".

No other vehicles were involved in the incident, and crash investigator, Pc John Blood, said that Sgt McDonald's car left the carriageway 130 metres before hitting the wall.

He said: "This meant he had 80 metres to try and get back on the road but there is no evidence that he made any attempt to get back on.

"This appears to have been a manoeuvre to go onto the verge."

Recording his verdict, Cambridgeshire Coroner David Morris said: "I fear we shall never know what he had been doing during the day.

"We can't be sure this was a deliberate attempt by Mr McDonald to take his own life, and because we remain in a mystery I will give what is effectively an open verdict," he said.

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