1. ITV Report

Private Cheryl James died 20 years ago - her family hopes answers to their questions may 'finally be within reach'

An inquest in 1995 recorded an open verdict into Pte Cheryl James's death. Credit: Family photo

The family of a north Wales soldier found dead at Deepcut Barracks over 20 years ago say they hope a new inquest will mean answers to questions over her death will 'finally be within reach.'

18-year-old Private Cheryl James, from Llangollen, was found with a fatal gunshot wound to her head at the barracks in Surrey in 1995. She was one of four teen recruits to die there over a seven-year period. New evidence that emerged last month suggested Pte James may have been sexually exploited before she died. A fresh inquest into her death begins in Woking today.

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.

– Des James, Cheryl James's father

Pte James was undergoing initial training when she was found dead in November 1995. Privates Sean Benton, James Collinson and Geoff Gray also died from gunshot wounds at Deepcut between 1995 and 2002.

An inquest in December 1995 recorded a open verdict into Pte James's death, but that was quashed by High Court judges in 2014 and a new inquest ordered. Her body was exhumed in August last year and a post-mortem examination carried out.

Pte James's family barrister told a pre-inquest hearing last month they had evidence suggesting she may have been 'sexually coerced or raped the night before, or before the time of her death.' There was also an allegation that she may have been ordered to sleep with someone by a superior officer.

Pte Cheryl James died at Deepcut Barracks in Surrey in 1995. Credit: TIM OCKENDEN/PA

The family want the inquest to be widened to take account of new testimony which they believe could shed new light on Pte James's state of mind. It will also consider whether a third party was involved in her death and what happened on the evening before she died, as well as whether there were shortcomings in barracks policies on sexual behaviour, supervision of young females, drugs, alcohol and accommodation.

The inquest at Woking Coroner's Court is expected to last seven weeks.

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