Tributes to tragic soldier as murder probe launched

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A soldier from Blackpool whose body was found at an Army barracks “served his country with the highest 
degree of honour and dedication”, his family said.

The body of Corporal Geoffrey McNeill, 32, was discovered at Clive Barracks in Tern Hill, Shropshire, at around 9am on Saturday.

Corporal Geoffrey McNeill

Corporal Geoffrey McNeill

A 23-year-old soldier has been arrested on suspicion of murder.

No details have been revealed about the investigation which is “in its early stages”.

Tests are being carried out to establish the cause of death following an initial post-mortem examination, West 
Mercia Police confirmed.

A member of Cpl McNeill’s family said the soldier, who is originally from Northern 
Ireland, had lived in Blackpool since the age of 15.

He had also attended St George’s High School, in 

His family today said he was a “much loved son, brother, uncle and friend” who “dedicated his life” to serving his country.

One of his three brothers, Jason McNeill, speaking on behalf of the family, said: 
“Geoff was born in Ballymoney, Northern Ireland, and dedicated his life to the 1st 
Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment.

“He served his country with the highest degree of honour and dedication.

“He was a much loved son, brother, uncle and friend and touched the lives of all who had the pleasure of meeting him.

“The family would like to give thanks for the continued support of the Army, police and all who knew and loved Geoff. Our love for him remains as strong as ever. Rest in peace soldier. Faugh-a-Ballagh.”

Detectives said the man in custody at Shrewsbury Police Station is based at the barracks near Market Drayton.

A post-mortem examination was carried out over the weekend but further tests have been ordered to try to establish the cause of death, a West Mercia Police spokesman said.

The coroner has also been informed.

Det Insp Steve Tonks, of West Mercia Police, said: “We have made an arrest in connection with the death.

“The investigation is in its early stages and extensive inquiries are continuing.

“A post-mortem conducted by a Home Office pathologist was held yesterday and further examination and tests are being carried out to help establish the cause of death.”

An MoD spokesman said: “Our thoughts are with the family and friends affected at this difficult time.

“We are assisting West Mercia Police with their investigation and it would be inappropriate for us to comment any further at this time.”

Capt Jay Walker, of the 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment, based at Tern Hill, said next of kin had been informed and civilian police were handling the investigation.

The Army would give police every assistance, he said.

Cpl McNeill, who was not married, is from the same battalion deployed only last month to help flood-stricken communities in Worcestershire after record levels of rain fell across the UK.

Members of the unit met Prime Minister David Cameron when he toured some of the county’s flood defences at Upton-upon-Severn on 
February 17.

During that visit, Mr Cameron praised the soldiers’ efforts in using their troop carriers to set up a shuttle bus service getting townspeople from one side of the flooded river to the other, while residents also expressed their delight at the military’s presence.

The unit, which has seen action in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years, returned to its Shropshire barracks after 
assisting with the flooding civil emergency. News of Cpl Geoffrey McNeill’s death sparked an outpouring of tributes on social networking sites.

His sister, Kimberley, took to Facebook to desperately appeal for any information 
leading to her brother’s 
death and said their family will not rest until they get justice.

She wrote: “If anyone has any information about my brother then please come forward.

“Anything no matter how 
insignificant you think it might be.

“Share this (post) in the hope that it can trigger someone’s memory of conscience, we 
will not rest until we get justice.”

She also changed her profile picture to one of her and her brother.

Relative Pamela Lindsay commented on the picture saying: “My thoughts are with you at this sad time. Love you aunty pam xx.”

Another friend, Cath Cairns, added: “Our thoughts and our love is with you all at this sad time xxx.”

Kerrie Johnston wrote: “So sad. RIP soldier”

And Kel Meredith paid her 
respects saying: “Thoughts are with you and your family x.”

Donna Slater added: “RIP Geoff... big loss of a solider son brother uncle and a kind hearted man may you fly with the angels.”