Dennis Hutchings: Thousands gather for Plymouth veteran's funeral

Thousands of people have gathered in Plymouth city centre to pay their respects to veteran Dennis Hutchings.

The 80-year-old, from Cawsand in Cornwall, died in Belfast last month after contracting Covid-19 while he was in the city to face trial over a fatal shooting in Co Tyrone in 1974.

Mr Hutchings, who served with the Lifeguards Regiment, had been due to appear before a non-jury trial at Laganside Courts.

However, a defence barrister said Mr Hutchings had returned a positive PCR test for Covid-19 at the beginning of proceedings. The veteran soldier had a number of serious health issues.

Dennis Hutchings, a former member of the Life Guards regiment

Mr Hutchings had pleaded not guilty to the attempted murder of John Pat Cunningham, and his solicitor Philip Barden said he had wanted to clear his name.

Mr Hutchings' funeral service was relayed outside of the church for the huge crowds of people who attended.

By 11am, the area surrounding St Andrew's Church was already busy, with the church saying they expected around 20,000 people to join them in remembrance.

Credit: PA Images

Streams of people, many wearing medals, were seen down from the Hoe where another service of remembrance was held by the war memorial. 

People could be seen dressed in military clothing and holding flags and wreaths.

Hundreds of motorbikes from Rolling Thunder UK accompanied Mr Hutchings' coffin in a motorcade to Plymouth.

Riders from Rolling Thunder UK join the cortege towards St Andrew's Church in Plymouth. Credit: PA Images

The coffin made its way through a pathway lined with flags before it was carried by military pallbearers in to the church to the sounds of The Life Guards Slow March.

It was decorated with a Union Flag, flowers and a military hat.

Rector Joe Dent introduced the service noting the huge amount of people gathered inside and outside of the church as well as those watching the service online.

Johnny mercer, the former veterans minister who went to Belfast with Dennis for his trial, gave the first tribute.

Mr Mercer said the military service of Dennis Hutchings is “remembered and respected” by the nation.

He told the funeral service: “We gather today to remember a great man – I want to pay him a fulsome tribute.

“I want to pay tribute to his family, I want to remember and pay tribute to his service to this nation and I want to pay tribute to what he represented both in his life and in his passing.”

The Plymouth MP went on to speak directly to Mr Hutchings’ family.

“I know the past few years has at times felt lonely, I do not intend to speak about why that was," he said.

Credit: PA Images

“But let me ask you to look around you today, look at what Dennis meant, look at the efforts of those who are gathered here today from across this country to remember a great man.

“Look at these things and know how much Dennis is loved, how much his service was remembered and respected and feel the love of a grateful nation.”

As the service concluded, people lined the streets around the church as far as the eye could see, clapping as his coffin was brought outside.