Nfld. & Labrador

Still no charges for British soldiers in death of Newfoundland man

Donna Foote Matthews says she will go to any lengths to get justice for her son, who died after an altercation outside an Alberta bar in June.

Victim's mother says she will go to whatever lengths necessary to get justice

Donna Foote Matthews lost her son, Jeffrey Matthews, after an altercation outside a bar in Medicine Hat that left him brain dead. (Submitted by Donna Foote-Matthews)

Two months after he passed away in a Calgary hospital, there are still no charges in the death of Jeff Matthews.

Matthews, originally from Newfoundland, died of brain trauma following a physical altercation outside a bar in Medicine Hat.

His mother, Donna Foote Matthews, says she was told her son was sucker-punched by a British soldier from the nearby Canadian Forces Base.

"He just hauled off and smacked Jeff," she said. "Sucker-punched him and down he went, and through that he ended up with a cracked skull and internal bleeding and as a result of that, he's not here anymore."

Matthews had been in an argument with another man inside the bar earlier in the night, which prompted three British soldiers and another Canadian man to approach him outside later on.

Allowed to leave hospital

Foote Matthews has been trying to piece together what happened next.

She spoke to her son the day after the altercation took place. He didn't say he was punched, but was complaining of a headache and nausea, so she urged him to go to the hospital.

He listened to his mother and went to the emergency room on June 22, where it was discovered he had a cracked skull and internal bleeding, Foote Matthews said.

Foote Matthews didn't become worried until her son didn't call her after leaving the hospital. (Cal Tobin/CBC)

She was shocked to find out he was allowed to leave the hospital the same day, without being held overnight for observation.

"If he wanted to leave, they should have notified the authorities or someone to keep him there under observation [and] let him know it was life-threatening to leave there, but they allowed him to leave for some reason."

His daughter's birthday party was the next day. Foote Matthews said it was strange when the entire day passed without him calling.

Later that night, she got a call from the hospital in Calgary — he was on life support.

I won't stop. Justice needs to be served and I'm the only voice he has right now.- Donna Foote Matthews

She jumped on the first plane she could get out of St. John's and headed to be by his side, but he died while she was still in the air.

That Monday morning, she found out from a doctor that it was being treated as a homicide case — the first she'd heard of any altercation.

Extradition a challenge

The day after Matthews died, the British soldiers left the country, having just finished their training in Canada.

"If there was any DNA of my son on this soldier or any markings whatsoever of him smacking my son, that would be covered and done now," she said. "That's unfair."

CBC News has contacted Medicine Hat Police for an update on the case, but had not heard back as of publishing time.

Last week, police said they were waiting on word from the coroner to confirm Matthews died as a result of a punch, but admitted it will be a challenge to extradite the soldiers even if charges are laid.

Foote Matthews said she's prepared to go to any lengths to get justice for her son.

"I will go to the U.K. if necessary and I will go to the embassy," she said. "I will do whatever it takes. I won't stop. Justice needs to be served and I'm the only voice he has right now."

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