Inquest to begin into young soldier’s death at Deepcut Barracks

Published: Monday 1st February 2016 by The News Editor

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A long-awaited fresh inquest is due to begin into the death of a young soldier found dead at a controversial army barracks more than 20 years ago.

Private Cheryl James, 18, was discovered with a fatal gunshot wound at Deepcut Barracks in Surrey in 1995 – one of four teenage recruits to die there over a seven-year period.

New evidence emerged last month that suggested Pte James may have been sexually exploited by senior ranks shortly before her death.

Speaking ahead of the start of the inquest, Des James said he hoped for “justice” for his daughter and the other young soldiers who died at Deepcut.

He told the Press Association: “We know the culture at the camp was out of control. There was a drug and alcohol culture.

“The bottom line is a culture was created at the camp which contributed to the death of four people.

“The Deepcut situation is the tip of the iceberg. We have to get to the bottom of what happened. I want justice for all four of them.

“Twenty years after we lost Cheryl, and following numerous attempts by successive governments to assign the scandal of Deepcut to history, the answers to our many questions may finally be within reach.”

Alison Foster QC, representing the family, told a pre-inquest hearing last month that they had material suggesting Pte James “may have been sexually coerced or raped the night before, or before the time of her death”.

There was also a “direct allegation” that the teenage soldier might have been ordered to sleep with a person “by someone superior in rank to her”, the barrister said.

Pte James, from Llangollen in north Wales, was undergoing initial training when she was found dead with a bullet wound between her right eye and the bridge of her nose in November 1995.

Privates Sean Benton, James Collinson and Geoff Gray also died from gunshot wounds at Deepcut between 1995 and 2002.

In 2014, High Court judges ordered a fresh inquest into Pte James’s death after they quashed an open verdict recorded in December 1995.

Her body was exhumed in August and a post-mortem examination was carried out by two experts.

The family have requested the scope of the new inquest be widened to take account of new testimony which they believe sheds new light on Pte James’s state of mind.

The hearing will consider whether a third party was involved in her death and what happened on the evening before she died. It will also address whether there were “shortcomings” with barracks policies on sexual behaviour, supervision of young females, drugs, alcohol and accommodation.

The inquest into Pte James’s death is due to take place before Brian Barker QC at Woking Coroner’s Court in Surrey and is expected to last seven weeks.

Published: Monday 1st February 2016 by The News Editor

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