New inquest to open into young soldier's death at Deepcut Barracks


A long-awaited fresh inquest is due to begin into the death of a young soldier 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 recruits to die there over a seven-year period.

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

At least 10 witnesses have now come forward with allegations of a culture of sexual exploitation at Deepcut, according to human rights organisation Liberty, which is representing the family.

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."

The family's barrister, Alison Foster QC, 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", Ms Foster added.

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.

In total, more than 100 witnesses are expected to give evidence during the new inquest. The family have requested the scope of the hearing be widened to take account of new evidence which they believe sheds fresh light on Pte James's state of mind.

Coroner Brian Barker QC will consider whether a third party was involved in her death and what happened on the evening before she died. He will also address whether there were "shortcomings" with barracks policies on sexual behaviour, supervision of young females, drugs, alcohol and accommodation.

The inquest is due to take place at Woking Coroner's Court in Surrey and is expected to last seven weeks.