Deepcut army recruit 'may have been raped before she died'


New evidence suggests a teenage army recruit found dead more than 20 years ago was being sexually exploited by senior ranks shortly before she died, an inquest heard.

Lawyers representing the family of Private Cheryl James want the scope of a new hearing into the 18-year-old's death at the Deepcut Barracks in 1995 to be widened to take account of new testimony which they said today sheds new light on her state of mind.

Alison Foster QC, representing the teenager's family, told a pre-inquest hearing at Woking Coroner's Court they have material suggesting Cheryl "may have been sexually coerced or raped the night before, or before the time of her death".

She added: "There is now a direct allegation that Cheryl might have been ordered to sleep with the person we are calling Witness A by someone superior in rank to her."

She continued: "This is not fraternising. This is not an illicit sexual relationship between two young people across the ranks. This is something quite different."

Pte James, 18, was found with a bullet wound to her head in November 1995 when she was undergoing initial training at the Surrey barracks.

She was one of four soldiers who died at the barracks between 1995 and 2002 amid claims of bullying and abuse. Privates Sean Benton, James Collinson and Geoff Gray also died from gunshot wounds.

A fresh inquest was ordered into Pte James's death after High Court judges quashed an open verdict recorded in December 1995. It is due to start in Woking on February 1.

Coroner Brian Barker QC said he would make a written ruling on whether to widen the scope of the inquest in the next few weeks.