Foreign Secretary explains decision to withhold information from grieving family

The Northern Echo: Andrew Watt Andrew Watt

THE Foreign Secretary has written to the family of a man found dead in France explaining the Government’s decision to withhold information.

William Hague told the mother of Andrew Watt that letters between the French and British government did not reveal fresh details about her son's death.

Mr Watt, 31, from Durham City, was found dead about a mile from Vimarce, near Laval, in North-West France, in September 2010.

French doctors concluded that the former Durham Johnston School pupil died of heart failure.

However, his family have questioned the judgement and believe the French police investigation into the death was flawed.

Mr Watt’s mother, Julie Sheppard, has urged the British Government to release all information on the death.

While some documents have been disclosed, the Foreign Office has been reluctant to hand over several letters between the two governments.

In a letter to Mr Watt’s mother, Julie Sheppard, Mr Hague said: “I want to reassure you that these letters simply explain the status of the French investigation and do not cast any new light on the circumstances of your son’s death.

“On occasion we have to make difficult decisions about withholding documents between governments to ensure we are able to continue to have frank exchanges in the future. I am afraid this case is one of those instances.”

In response, Mrs Sheppard said: “We feel these letters are important and believe Andrew's family should be allowed to see them.”

Mrs Sheppard is currently organising a second protest involving families whose loved ones died abroad and who are unhappy with the help they received from British authorities.

The protest will take place outside the Foreign Office building, in King Charles Street, London, from 11am on April 8.

The families will hold a banner which accuses the last four foreign secretaries of being guilty of failing to help British citizens.

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