Saturday, October 01, 2005

Coroner Pitto returns open verdict on death of former CBF

by Brian Reyes

Commodore White inquest conclusion

Charles Pitto, the Coroner, yesterday recorded an open verdict on the death of Commodore David White, the former Commander British Forces who drowned in his swimming pool a day after being relieved of his command.

Mr Pitto said there was insufficient evidence to firmly establish the circumstances surrounding the death last January 8th.

“The evidence did not disclose or further disclose the means whereby the said cause of death arose,” he said. The verdict showed Mr Pitto had ruled out other possible outcomes including suicide or accidental death.

An open verdict has been recorded on Commodore David White who drowned in his swimming pool after being investigated over child porn - Photo BBCThe inquest heard how Commodore White, 50, was told in a phone call less than 24 hours before he died that he had been stripped of his command.

He was being investigated by the Ministry of Defence police over allegations that he had used his credit card to buy pornographic images from a US website.

There was no reference at the inquest to the type of content on that site but UK press reports at the time claimed he was being investigated by Operation Ore, Britain’s largest inquiry into child pornography. The inquest heard that at the time of his death, the former Royal Navy submariner had not been arrested or charged.

Senior military staff took the decision to reappoint him away from Gibraltar after learning that news of the ongoing probe had become public knowledge.

Commodore White was found dead fully clothed at the bottom of his swimming pool less than 24 hours later. There was no evidence of foul play. A post mortem found evidence that he had mixed alcohol with strong sedatives and that this may have impaired his coordination and judgment.

Rupert White, his brother, told the inquest that the decision to strip him of his command would have left the commodore in despair. Mr White was present at the inquest but made no comment on the verdict.

Up until the phone call on January 7, people who had been in contact with the commodore told the inquest that he had seemed his normal self. Several witnesses at the inquest described the commodore as a perfect gentleman, an officer with a long and distinguished career. He was said to be calm in a crisis, willingly taking advice from his fellow senior officers when tackling a problem.

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