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Saturday, 20 July, 2002, 00:47 GMT 01:47 UK
Father's 'fight for the truth'
Guard post, generic
Geoff Gray was on guard duty at the time of his death
A formal inquiry is to be held into the deaths of four young soldiers at an Army barracks in Surrey, say MPs.

The Army say the deaths, which all occurred in separate incidents, were suicides but the families have never accepted this.

Geoff Gray, whose 17-year-old son, also Geoff, died last September, told BBC News Online of his determination to uncover the truth about his son's death.


For some young boys, playing soldiers with plastic military figures is the closest they get to the Army experience.

But for Hackney teenager Geoff Gray, serving his country as a soldier was a lifelong ambition.

He achieved his goal - enlisting on his 17th birthday - only for his future to be cruelly cut short in September last year.


He had no girl problems, no money worries

Geoff Gray
Father

Now his parents, Geoff and Diane Gray, are fighting their own battle against the Army's insistence that their son killed himself.

The government has promised a formal inquiry into the deaths of Private Gray and three others - all of which occurred in separate incidents at the Royal Logistic Corps headquarters at Deepcut, Surrey.

For Geoff's father, 38, the news is a welcome step.

Driving ambition

Geoff was on guard duty at Deepcut last September, when he was found dead with two bullet wounds to his head.

Mr Gray said: "The first I knew was an Army padre called at my house eight hours after the death to say 'We think your son's killed himself'.

Geoff Gray
Geoff had no worries before his death, said his father

"My first reaction was shock - my son was dead. Then realising the person had just said suicide.

"I thought 'rubbish'. I knew my son better than anyone else.

"He had no girl problems, no money worries and in fact he could not have been at a better time in his life."

Geoff had just passed his driving test and was preparing to take a HGV driving test.

He hoped to advance in the Army and was tipped to become a supply controller - ordering supplies for units on assignments.

"He loved the Army life," said Mr Gray, who lives in Hackney, East London.

Lives mapped out

"From quite a young teenager he loved every aspect of it, the structured way of life.

"You see kids around here, hanging about on the street with no purpose. Geoff and his colleagues had their lives mapped out, they knew what they were going to do and to better themselves."

After his son's death an initial Surrey Police inquiry found no suspicious circumstances.

Yet an inquest in March this year gave an open verdict, failing to support claims of suicide.

Diane and Geoff Gray
The Grays are determined to find the truth

Just four days after the inquest Private James Collinson, also 17, was found dead in similar circumstances at the barracks, having suffered a single gunshot wound.

The Grays then discovered that in 1995 two other soldiers, Privates Sean Benton from Hastings and Cheryl James, from Llangollen in Wales, had died at the barracks.

Mr Gray firmly believes the Army has covered up his son's death and is grateful Surrey Police is conducting a second investigation, prior to the start of the Commons inquiry.

Anger

He said: "There are a million scenarios of what I think could have happened, but I just don't know for sure.

"It is about time the Army came forward and admitted what happened that evening."

The Grays, who have another young son Adam aged 11, have spent their own money writing letters to MPs and enlisting support.

They hope the Commons inquiry will lead to a full public inquiry with a wider remit to investigate soldier deaths at other Army barracks.

Mr Gray said his anger motivated him to keep battling for the truth, but he added:

"I don't want to be one of these people hanging on to a thread and I do realise you have to let go sometime - but I'm a long way from that yet."

See also:

04 Jul 02 | England
11 Jun 02 | England
21 May 02 | Scotland
30 Apr 02 | England
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