Inquest into death of 'bullied' Wisbech Tory activist to take place

The inquest into the death of a young Wisbech Tory activist who is believed to have taken his own life after alleged bullying is due to take place.

Tuesday, 31st May 2016, 8:55 am
Updated Tuesday, 31st May 2016, 9:58 am
Elliott Johnson

Elliott Johnson, 21, was found dead on railway tracks in Bedfordshire in September 15, just weeks after making allegations about his treatment within the Conservative Party.

The inquest in Bedfordshire will focus on the fact Elliott believed he was being bullied and on his being made redundant by Conservative Way Forward after making the bullying allegation

It comes after senior Bedfordshire and Luton coroner Tom Osborne refused a call by the Johnson family in March for a full inquest to hear more detailed evidence about events in the months leading up to his death. It was argued this should include the culture within the Conservative Party at the time.

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In his ruling, the coroner said the original scope of the inquest was appropriate and he would not call members of the Conservative Party as witnesses.

He said it would not be appropriate to call members of the Conservative Party to give evidence about what steps or measures they are taking to investigate the bullying allegations by one party member towards another.

After his death, a note was found in which Elliott cited the alleged bullying by former activist Mark Clarke, a ‘betrayal’ by mutual friend Andre Walker and his loss of employment as reasons. Both Mr Clarke and Mr Walker deny the allegations.

Mr Walker, a lobby journalist and former political adviser who claims he was in a relationship with Elliott, says he intends to go to this week’s inquest.

In a statement ahead of the hearing, he told the Press Association: “The loss of Elliott has left a hole in everyone’s lives. I’m just looking forward to getting some clarity on all the circumstances surrounding his death not just the ones that have been focused on heavily so far.”

The coroner had stated in his ruling in March: “The inquest is limited to answering the question as to how the deceased came by his death, will look at the circumstances of his employment and consider in detail the content of the notes left by the deceased to determine whether the correct conclusion should be that he died as a result of suicide.

“I emphasise again that an inquest is not a trial. The purpose is not to determine whether the allegations of bullying set out in the letters left by Mr Johnson were true and I will not allow the inquest to be used as a tool for putting anyone on trial.”

Elliott’s parents Ray and Alison, of Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, want to know if the death is linked to a series of events that occurred in the last few weeks of his life.

The family stated that at the time of his death, Elliott believed his career was over after his full-time position with Conservative Way Forward was made redundant.

Elliott had alleged bullying a month before his death. His allegations eventually sparked an investigation and the resignation of former party chairman Grant Shapps.

The allegations centre on the activities of Mr Clarke who has since been expelled from the party. Mr Clarke has strongly denied the allegations against him.

Elliott had made a formal complaint about Mr Clarke to Conservative HQ.