Theresa May has ordered an urgent inquiry into red tape around military pensions after a soldier’s £120,000 death in service benefit was paid to his friend rather of his widow. Bereaved Charlotte Hughes, 27 years old, was denied the pay out following death of her husband Andy, a sergeant in the Intelligence Corps, in a vehicle crash in October, he was 33 years old. Prime Minister wrote to Mrs Hughes, a teacher, saying her ‘I was deeply sorry to learn of your husband’s tragic death and would like to offer my most sincere condolences. I was also very sorry to read of the difficulties you have faced in regard to the Armed Forces Pension Scheme.’  She asked the Minister for Defence Veterans, Mark Lancaster, to investigate. Sgt Hughes had indicated in his will that his wife should be the sole recipient of his estate. But the benefit was paid to a former Intelligence Corps colleague, Andrew Cooke, 30 years old. Despite allegedly telling Mrs Hughes initially that he would give her the money, but he has so far not done so. The fiasco began in 2013 when Sgt Hughes deployed to Afghanistan and was said to nominate someone to receive the payout should be killed in action. He had just started dating his future wife so she declined his offer to nominate her so he choosed Mr Cooke. Sgt Hughes and Charlotte got engaged in Morocco in June last year and they got married two months later.

After he made a new military will and gave his wife’s name and address after a paragraph that reads ‘I give all my estate and effects and everything that I can give or dispose of to…’ On October 14, Sgt Hughes suffered fatal brain injuries in the vehicle near their new home in Broadway, Worcs, and died in hospital 4 days later. His widow told Mr Cooke contacted her to tell that he was due to receive the benefit but assured her he would give the money ‘entirely’ to her. Now, she says he has reneged on this and the MoD tells he is the rightful recipient. Mrs Hughes said ‘I’ve asked to see them but they’ve ignored me. I’m very hurt.’ The Mail on Sunday understands that Mr Cooke left the Army last year to retrain as a nurse and is working in the West Midlands. Last night, his father named Dr Roger Cooke, confirmed that he had passed on our requests for an interview and added: ‘I think the bottom line is he’s keen not to take it any further.’ Mrs Hughes told ‘The MoD has closed ranks but I am campaigning for change.’ She is backed by the Forces Pensions Society whose Assistant General Secretary, named Hugo Fletcher, said ‘This issue is a ticking time bomb and affects people across the Army, Navy and Air Force.’ The MoD said ‘We cannot comment on specific cases, however officials are working to review current processes to ensure that our personnel’s wishes are fulfilled.’

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