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Soldier was "bullied to death" says colleague

A new witness has come forward claiming a Sussex soldier at the Deepcut Army Barracks was "bullied to death".

Sean Benton, 20, from Hastings, was the first of four recruits to die from gunshot wounds at the barracks. He was killed by five bullet wounds to the chest, twenty-one years ago.

Now, Stewart Thompson, Benton's former colleague, says a fresh inquest should be held. He is calling for a public inquiry into all the deaths.

John Ryall reports.


Officer 'surprised not to be interviewed' in Cheryl James inquest

Private Cheryl James was found dead at Deepcut Barracks in 1995 Credit: ITV Meridian

One of the last people to see army recruit Private Cheryl James alive at Deepcut Barracks in Surrey, said he was "surprised" he was not interviewed in the investigation into her death.

The 18-year-old soldier was discovered with a fatal bullet wound on November 27th 1995 - one of four recruits to die at the barracks near Camberley over a seven-year period.

Major Richard Rimmington, a former instructor at the base, told Surrey Coroner's Court in Woking he was probably the last person to see her alive. He said he drove through the gate at the training camp where Pte James was posted on guard duty moments before she died.

Cheryl was found dead at Deepcut Barracks in Surrey in 1995 Credit: ITV Meridian

"At the gate I saw one person, it was a female, a female in uniform doing guard duties. I showed her my ID card and probably said 'good morning how are you'. I remember that day because of the events, it's one of those things that stays in your mind. I was surprised no one came to talk to me. After the initial inquest had concluded I thought they must not have needed me."

– Major Richard Rimmington, former instructor at Deepcut Barracks

Date set for fresh inquest into Deepcut soldier's death

Private Cheryl James died from a gunshot wound at the base in 1995 Credit: ITV Meridian

A new inquest into the death of a teenage soldier who died from a single gunshot wound at an Army barracks in Surrey will be held early next year, a coroner ruled today.

Private Cheryl James was one of four young recruits who died in mysterious circumstances at Deepcut Barracks between 1995 and 2002.

The colour of bullets found in the 18-year-old's head could hold a vital clue to her death, the court heard, as the soldier's family lambasted the fact a decision was yet to be taken on whether to exhume her body.

At the hearing in Woking, coroner Brian Barker ruled that the inquest will take place in isolation, despite a request from Surrey Police for it to be held concurrently with those into the deaths of three other recruits at Deepcut.

Privates Geoff Gray, aged 17 years, 20-year-old Sean Benton, and James Collinson, aged 17 years, also died from gunshot wounds, sparking allegations of bullying and abuse at the barracks.

The inquest into Private James' death will begin on February 1 next year and last until around March 24.

However, her family had hoped a decision would have been made by now on whether to exhume her body, an issue which was discussed at a previous hearing.

Private James' family believe it could provide vital evidence for the new inquest, but Mr Barker said the court was awaiting a preliminary report on how an exhumation could help the investigation.

After the open verdict at her initial inquest – hurriedly held only three weeks after Cheryl's tragic death and lasting just one hour - the Ministry of Defence and police were accused of a cover-up.

Alison Foster QC, representing the family, told the court they were dismayed by the delay in a decision over the exhumation.

"We would say from our standpoint it is very clear indeed that an exhumation would be necessary for you to carry out a full and proper inquiry," she told the coroner.

Ms Foster said bullet fragments which may still exist in Private James' head could be crucial to the inquest. She told how German experts testing the SA80 rifle the soldier was armed with when she died said the bullets were a different colour to those found in her body.

"They noted that the bullets given to them by the Army on which to test were red," said Ms Foster. "The bullet fragments removed from Cheryl's head were apparently yellow.

"There is no apparent evidence that it was an SA80 that caused the wounds to Cheryl."

Private James had been posted, alone and armed with an SA80 rifle, to guard a gate known as A2 at Royal Way on November 27, 1995.

She was found at about 8.30am close to the gate in a small wooded area surrounded by trees, with a bullet wound to the front of her head and no other signs of injury.

Cheryl's parents, Des and Doreen James, refused to accept the theory that their daughter committed suicide using her own rifle and have battled for more than 19 years for the truth surrounding her death.

At the pre-inquest hearing, Mr Barker also outlined the eight topics the hearing will cover.

These will include any shortcomings in the system that could have caused or contributed to Private James' death, such as those to do with lone guard duty, sexual behaviour, the supervision and support of young women, drugs, alcohol, accommodation and general security at the barracks.

The inquest will also look at her state of mind on November 27, 1995, whether there was any third party involvement in her death, what happened on the evening of November 26, what she did and who saw her immediately before her death, who discovered the body and how, and where and when she died.

"It seems to me those are the main areas of the scope," said Mr Barker.

The coroner also rejected an application by Surrey Police to run the inquest concurrently with any others, a decision supported by Private James' family, who are opposed to further delays.

Mr Barker said: "It is clear there are no other inquests to consolidate and furthermore no interested person is requesting I should delay or adjourn the present inquest.

"There should, in my view, be no delay with the present inquest which will continue to go ahead on the timetable to be set down in this hearing."

Mr Barker said if any other inquests were held into Deepcut deaths, it would be up to someone else to decide whether they should run concurrently.


Possible fresh inquest into death of soldier at Deepcut

They've never believed that their daughter killed herself and now her parents say they're a step closer to learning the truth.

Private Cheryl James was one of four young recruits found shot dead at Deepcut Barracks in Surrey, between 1995 and 2002.

The families have never accepted that they committed suicide.

Now the Government's Chief legal adviser has given Des and Doreen James permission to apply for a new inquest into Cheryl's death. Rachel Hepworth reports

Cheryl James' father speaks out over possibility of fresh inquest

The parents of a soldier who was found dead at her barracks in Surrey nearly twenty years ago, have welcomed a decision to allow them to apply for a fresh inquest into her death.

Private Cheryl James who was eighteen was found with a bullet wound to her head at Deepcut Barracks in 1995. The original inquest recorded an open verdict. Liberty, which is acting on behalf of Cheryl's family, has secured access to documents held by the authorities.

ITV News spoke to Cheryl's father Des James about the decision.

  1. National

Father: 'We may never know what happened at Deepcut'

The father of Private Cheryl James who died at Deepcut barracks, hopes his daughters death will be fully investigated if a new inquest takes place.

Des James says they may never know what happened to his daughter but her death must be investigated further.

Pte James was found dead after an apparent suicide in 1995. She was one of four soldiers who died at the barracks between 1995 and 2002.

The solicitor acting on behalf of the family, Emma Norton, says there is no guarantee that another inquest will take place.

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Profile of Deepcut four

Pte James Collinson and Pte Cheryl James Credit: Press Association Images

Private James Collinson

Aged 17, from Perth, Scotland. Pte Collinson was found with a single gunshot wound through his chin in March 2002.

Private Cheryl James

Age 18, from Llangollen, north Wales. Pte James was found dead with a bullet through her forehead, in November 1995.

Pte Sean Benton and Pte Geoff Gray Credit: Press Association Images

Private Sean Benton

Aged 20, from Hastings in East Sussex. Pte Benton was found dead with five gunshot wounds while on guard in June 1995.

Private Geoff Gray

Aged 17, from Seaham in County Durham. Pte Gray was found dead with two gunshot wounds to his head while on guard duty in September 2001.

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