Lawyers review Deepcut police files

Shot dead: James Collinson. Picture: PA
Shot dead: James Collinson. Picture: PA
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A REVIEW of police files is under way in a bid to force a long-awaited public inquiry into four deaths at Deepcut army barracks.

Lawyers acting for the family of a Scottish soldier who died at the camp more than a decade ago have, for the first time, been given special access to all paperwork collated by detectives investigating the tragedies.

Private James Collinson, from Perth, was just 17 when he became the fourth young recruit to be found shot dead at the barracks in just seven years. In all the cases, despite suggestions of foul play and a number of discrepancies, the army has always maintained the four soldiers took their own lives.

Now a team of solicitors in England is carrying out a 
detailed review of the Surrey Police evidence surrounding the Deepcut deaths in the hope of forcing the government into a public inquiry.

The news emerged in an autobiography published this week by Collinson’s mother, Yvonne Collinson Heath, about her own decade-long quest for answers.

In her book A Mother’s War, she writes: “We haven’t quite yet abandoned hope of finding out what happened to our loved ones.

“Indeed, we have decided to take it upon ourselves to turn detective and continue seeking out other avenues that might uncover the missing link. Surrey Police has never published the full case notes relating to the investigation into the four deaths and this is where we have started our work.

“The files – which contain everything from witness statements to the results of forensic tests and crime-scene photographs – have only ever been viewed in part by the coroner and by the Commons defence select committee, but now we want access to all of them.

“We don’t know what the case notes might hold, but we harbour hope that they can raise possible leads to explore.”

She added: “By its own admission Surrey Police said officers had made a number of mistakes in investigating James’ death so perhaps we can capitalise on some of them and uncover a missing piece of the puzzle.”

Four soldiers died at Deepcut – home to the Royal Logistic Corps and officially known as the Princess Royal Barracks – in the space of just seven years.

Private Sean Benton, 20, from Hastings, Sussex; Private Geoff Gray, 17, from Hackney, east London; and Private Cheryl James, 18, were all found shot dead in similar circumstances between 1995 and 2001.

Collinson had been on guard duty on the night of 23 March, 2002, when he was found with a gunshot wound to the head.

Officials at Surrey Police confirmed they are co-operating with a request from solicitors but stressed there would be no fresh investigation into the deaths unless new information came to light.