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Body of female soldier found shot at Deepcut raised doubts over suicide

By Ben Farmer DEFENCE CORRESPONDENT Daily Telegraph, The

THE body of a young female soldier found shot dead at Deepcut barracks raised doubts that she committed suicide, an inquest has heard.

It was also disclosed that police failed to question properly and eliminate three potential suspects, including the Army recruit’s boyfriend.

Pte Cheryl James’s body was found with no exit wound, no blood on the ground and with her face covered by her waterproof.

A police officer reviewing the death said in 2002 that the circumstances in which she was found at the Surrey barracks “raised questions” about the manner of her death.

Pte James was the second of four young soldiers found dead at the Royal Logistic Corps barracks in Surrey between 1995 to 2002, amid allegations of bullying, violence and sexual abuse.

The 18-year-old from Llangollen, Denbighshire, had recently finished initial training when she was found dead on Nov 27, 1995, after a night on guard duty, with a single bullet wound between her nose and eye.

A 1995 inquest delivered an open verdict, after the Army said she had killed herself, but it was quashed after High Court judges ruled the hearing inadequate. A new inquest has heard that police originally investigating the shooting did not fully question and eliminate three men as potential suspects.

The hearing at Woking coroner’s court heard that a 2002 Surrey Police review of the investigation had highlighted two soldiers and an unidentified male seen near the scene of Pte James’s death. It said that Pte Jim Carr-Minns, her boyfriend, and Pte Paul Wilkinson needed to be interviewed.

Alison Foster QC, counsel for the James family, told the hearing that the review said each “should be considered a suspect and should be interviewed immediately to confirm or disprove his involvement in the death”.

A 2005 independent review of the Surrey Police investigation found this had not been done.

Ms Foster said a police officer questioned the suicide theory because of the way the body was found. Reading out a statement made in 2002 by the officer, she said: “There was no exit wound, the apparent lack of blood on the ground, the way in which the hood of [her] waterproof jacket was covering the face. Any one of these indicators would not cause suspicion... but taken together, they ask questions about the way and the manner of Pte James’s death.”

A childhood friend also said Pte James was desperate to leave the Army in the days before her death.

Lydia Baksh said: “She was just being reprimanded all the time and getting put on guard duty a lot, which she just couldn’t bear.”

In a letter to Ms Baksh eight days before she died, Pte James called her new boyfriend Jim “the only good thing to come out of the Army so far”.

Brig John Donnelly, the director of personal services for the Army, agreed there were complaints of “unwanted sexual propositioning by NCOs of recruits” at the base.

He also acknowledged that “some instructors saw young females as a sexual challenge”.

The inquest heard that Pte James had been left “shaken” and “upset” when a sergeant at another base had “tried to have his way with her”, shortly before she was posted to Deepcut.

The inquest continues. wrongdoing.

Police bungled the investigation so the cause of her death remains unknown and vital evidence that could have proved Mr Worthington’s guilt or innocence was lost.

The original inquest into Poppi’s death took just seven minutes to declare her death “unexplained”. No evidence was called and the cause of death was left empty on the official form. The coroner retired the next day.

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