A YOUNG Cupar lance corporal who died while on holiday in Portugal “fought like a soldier” to the end.
Darren Lackie (21) passed away on Sunday after sustaining head injuries in mysterious circumstances three days earlier.
The Black Watch soldier was found unconscious without his wallet and phone in the town of Albufeira, where he was relaxing with childhood sweetheart Ashleigh Wilson.
Dad Graham, who works locally as a postman, paid tribute to his son and has vowed to fight tooth and nail for answers.
He told the Fife Herald: “Darren was Darren — anyone who knew him will know what I mean by that.
“He never stopped smiling, laughing and joking, and he never had a bad word to say about anyone.”
A highly regarded soldier, Darren had already completed one tour of duty to Afghanistan as a private and was preparing to fly out again in August having been promoted to lance corporal.
Graham said: “He joined the army at 16 and loved his job.
“It made him into the person he was.
“Going to Afghanistan didn’t faze him — he knew that’s what he’d signed up to do.”
Darren was on holiday in Portugal with long-term girlfriend Ashleigh (21), a local hairdresser and fellow former Bell Baxter High School pupil.
The pair had enjoyed a quiet evening on the Albufeira tourist strip before heading back to their hotel.
But Ashleigh awoke to find Darren missing, and after frantic enquiries she discovered he had been admitted to a local hospital.
Graham, who flew out to Portugal with Darren’s mum Helen, movingly described sitting at his son’s bedside during the last moments of his life.
He said: “Darren died at 10.15am on Sunday morning.
“His pulse was right down but his heart kept pumping and pumping and pumping.
“His mum told him he didn’t have to keep fighting if he was ready to go, and his heart monitor started to count down to zero — it was almost as if he was waiting for permission.
“He fought like a soldier to the end.”
A toxicology report shown to Graham revealed traces of barbiturate — commonly found in sleeping pills — in Darren’s system, but little alcohol.
Portuguese police initially ruled his death to be an accident.
Graham said: “Darren didn’t do drugs.
“He was a soldier, he just didn’t take them.”
He added: “The whole thing doesn’t ring true with me.
“He wasn’t drunk, so why would he have fallen over?
“According to a doctor at the hospital, his injuries weren’t consistent with that kind of fall.
“On Tuesday I met with the public prosecutor in Albufeira and he asked if I wanted to push for a formal criminal investigation — obviously I said yes.”
Darren will have a full military funeral in Cupar, but as yet no date has been set.