The father of a teenage soldier found dead at an army barracks has told an inquest he wants a “thorough investigation” into his daughter’s death after new forensic evidence had shown she may not have killed herself.
Private Cheryl James, 18, was discovered with a fatal bullet wound at Deepcut Barracks in Surrey in November 1995 – one of four recruits to die there over a seven-year period.
As long as at the end of the inquest I’m able to feel confident everything that could be done has been done, I would be satisfiedDes James
Lawyers for Pte James’s family say pathological evidence had suggested possible “third party involvement” in her death – a claim which Surrey Police have described as “speculation in the extreme”.
Privates Sean Benton, 20, James Collinson, 17, from Perth in Scotland and Geoff Gray, 17, also died from gunshot wounds at the barracks between 1995 and 2002.
The first day of a fresh inquest into her death heard Pte James had been the victim of an alleged rape by two boys when she was 14.
She had also taken an overdose of paracetamol as a teenager after the suicide of her 18-year-old cousin Rob in 1992, the hearing was told.
Giving evidence, Pte James’s father, Des, said he had last spoken to his daughter on her 18th birthday and she had not told him about her desire to leave the army.
He told Woking Coroner’s Court in Surrey: “I would like a thorough inquest, a thorough investigation, that takes a look at the forensic evidence that was missed or not checked.
“As long as at the end of the inquest I’m able to feel confident everything that could be done has been done, I would be satisfied.”
Mr James told the inquest he and his wife Doreen were not aware of the alleged rape of his daughter at the time it was said to have happened.
“All my wife knew was she wanted to get the morning-after pill,” he said. “The alleged assault was something we found out about a lot later.”
Mr James fought back tears as the court heard details of his nephew’s suicide, which he said was the “final straw” for his adopted daughter, who ran away from home twice as a teenager before moving out aged 17.
A second inquest into the death of Pte James, from Llangollen in North Wales, is examining new evidence suggesting she may have been sexually exploited by senior ranks shortly before her death.
High Court judges ordered the fresh inquest in 2014 after they quashed an open verdict recorded at an earlier inquest in December 1995
Coroner Brian Barker QC has said he will not consider claims of a “wider culture of sexual abuse” at Deepcut because he is not conducting a public inquiry.