Cheryl James’ father: My daughter would be alive if she had not gone to Deepcut

Published: Friday 3rd June 2016 by The News Editor

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The father of Private Cheryl James said he believed his daughter would be alive today if she had not gone to Deepcut Barracks.

Des James said the family were “deeply saddened” that coroner Brian Barker QC had come to a conclusion that Pte James killed herself in November 1995.

Mr James said it would be “corrosive” for the family to blame the Army but accused both the Ministry of Defence and Surrey Police of holding up the exploration of her death at “every juncture”.

Asked if Pte James would still be here if she had not been sent to Deepcut, he said: “Yeah, of course. Why ever not? In my heart of hearts I know I delivered her to that awful place.”

While Mr Barker’s ruling brought to an end the three-month inquest, Mr James said he “doesn’t think it’s the end of the road just yet” for the family’s quest for justice.

And he said an inquiry into how the toxic culture at Deepcut was created “would be useful”.

Speaking to the Press Association after the verdict, Mr James said he was disappointed by the findings.

He said: “I think the most galling thing was using the similar analogy to the Board of Inquiry the MoD conducted in January 1996 – ‘she must have loaded the gun, must have turned the gun, must have fired the gun’.

“Well, was there a camera on the tree or something? That was the disappointment, and I think that the evidence I heard every single day didn’t get me to that point. I wasn’t there, and I don’t think I was the only one.

“I could see it was headed for an open verdict and that was what we expected, and then that last minute…

“I just feel that we didn’t give Cheryl the benefit of the doubt, and she deserved the benefit of the doubt more than any of the witnesses.”

Mr James said he felt there had been a “gaping hole” in the evidence that led the coroner to return a verdict of suicide.

He said: “I would have accepted it if the evidence led me there. The problem is we entered into the inquest with both Surrey Police and the MoD bringing in their biased view on a suicide, so we have been fighting that as well.”

He added: “The whole process of exploring what happened to her has been held up at every juncture by assumptions and bias on both sides, on the MoD and on Surrey Police.

“I was speaking to the MoD at ministerial level in 2003 and it was me suggesting to them it was a cultural issue, and their constant denial, they would never accept that.

“So it’s coincidental maybe, on the first day of the inquest 20 years later they accept the culture issue and apologise for it.”

But he refused to openly blame the Army, saying: “I haven’t really got into blame. I think that’s a bit corrosive to your own make-up if you start doing that. It would be so easy to do.”

The James family promised to continue their fight.

Mr James said: “I do believe that at some stage some sort of inquiry that looks at how that culture was created would be useful, but I’m sure there will be many out there who will use the old adage that, ‘it’s 20 years, it’s far too late now to do it’.

“Well, I haven’t held it up. I’ve been trying to get that for 14, 15 years. I don’t know what comes next, but let’s see what comes out of the other inquests. That would be a good start.

“I don’t think it’s the end of the road just yet.”

Published: Friday 3rd June 2016 by The News Editor

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