Another suspicious death at the Deepcut Army Barracks
from various sources – March 2016
submitted by – Kelly Averill
Updates will be listed at the foot of this item
Cheryl James, aged 18 was a young solider at Deepcut Barracks; surrey. In November 1995 she was found with a fatal bullet wound to her head. Cheryl had become yet another squaddie to die at the army training camp, over a seven year period. Privates Sean Benton aged 20, James Collinson aged 17, and Geoff Gray aged 17, also died from gunshot wounds at the barracks between 1995 and 2002.
The army culture at the time had been highlighted within the media, with suggestions Cheryl was forced to have sex with other sergeants at the base. It is alleged that there would repercussions if she did not go through with these acts.
While many army barracks have a chaotic environment, Deepcut barracks appears to the outside as extremely sexualised.
Mr Beards told Woking Coroner’s Court ‘bumped into Pte James at around 11.10pm and she told him she had been ordered by Sergeant Andrew Gavaghan to go into a room with Pte Ian Atkinson – known as Aki – to have sex. This highlights the over-sexualised culture within the barracks.
Being forced into sex or sexual acts is not only wrong but it does break the law. Mr Beards goes on to say he questioned Pte Atkinson, who proceeded to walk away from him. This was a few hours before Cheryl’s death.
Corporal Ian Wilkinson was stopped by Private James on entry into the Surrey Barracks, between 8:15 – 8:30 on the morning of 27 November. This is a normal routine when entering an army barracks – it is done to ensure security. However Corporal Ian Wilkinson is one of the last people to see Cheryl alive.
On the day of her death, Cheryl did not want to be on guard duty an inquest heard. She did not give a reason, only that she was adamant that she did not want to be on guard duty. Some have made it known they believe it was due to the miserable personal life she had at the barracks.
Corporal Ian Wilkinson told the hearing: “She looked upset, did not seem altogether with it. She seemed miserable. I said something to the effect of, ‘cheer up, it might never happen’.” Another sergeant had come to work shortly after Corporal Ian, to find the gates were not guarded. Cheryl was then found close to the entry gate shortly after 8:30am.
Apart from the fatal shot to the head, Cheryl had no other injuries.
The High Court ruled in 2014 that the inquest held on 21 December 1995 into her death should be quashed and a fresh inquest should be held.’ The first inquest into Cheryl’s death had returned an open verdict.
The first inquest into Cheryl’s death took around 3 weeks to conduct. The Ministry of Defence and police were accused of a cover-up’. Many claimed that 3 Weeks was not an efficient amount of time for a verdict to be reached.
It is to be expected that there are conflicting views on the events leading up to Cheryl’s death. Several sergeants had explained in the trial how this was not like Cheryl, that on the day of her death she appeared her usual happy and bubbly self.
Some individuals believed Cheryl had committed suicide due to the intensity of her personal life at the barracks, which included the alleged sexual abuse she endured by higher ranking officers within the barracks.
A former Army instructor, Terence McEleavey, told the 2016 inquest there was “no way” Cheryl would have taken her own life. He said that she was “really happy” the morning she died and was excited about a posting to Germany.
Mr McEleavey, a former staff sergeant, told the Inquest senior officers had directed him on how to answer questions in interviews.
In order to ensure a truthful and just inquiry into Cheryl’s death, whoever was questioned should have answered truthfully and without restriction or limitation. By being guided in how to answer questions crucial information may have been missed that could have potentially sent the initial inquiry in a different way.
Deepcut soldier ‘could not have shot herself dead’
21 April 2016