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Last Updated: Saturday, 2 August, 2003, 15:59 GMT 16:59 UK
Deepcut report - parents 'shock'
Des James
Des James - shocked by new evidence of daughter's death
The father of a soldier found shot at the controversial Deepcut barracks described new evidence into her death as "devastating."

The evidence comes from a forensic expert investigating the deaths of four soldiers at the barracks and has cast doubt on the Army's explanation they took their own lives.

Des James, whose 18-year-old daughter Cheryl- from Llangollen - died from a shot to the head at the barracks in 1995, said he and his wife had been completely shocked by the findings of independent expert Frank Swann.

He added that the report had left Surrey Police with "egg on their faces" and called again for a public enquiry.

The force is now postponing releasing its own findings, due next week, after reading Frank Swann's submission.

Differences between experts

Mr Swann, an independent investigator hired by the families of the victims, said most of the bullet wounds were "highly unlikely" to be self-inflicted.

After studying his conclusions, Surrey Police admitted there were "differences" between his findings and those of the other forensic experts they consulted, and decided to call off Tuesday's briefing.

The force had been expected to say it had found no evidence of third party involvement in any of the deaths.

Mr Swann was hired by the families, who were sceptical when the Ministry of Defence said their children had committed suicide.

The dead soldiers
Sean Benton, 20, from Hastings, East Sussex, 1995
Cheryl James, 18, from Llangollen, north Wales, 1995
Geoff Gray, 17, from Seaham, County Durham, 2001
James Collinson, 17, from Perth, Scotland, 2002
He spent six weeks at the barracks earlier this year and gave his evidence to the police on Friday.

Mr James said: "To have to change your mindset entirely, to think that somebody else may have been involved in Cheryl's death, is impossible. I cannot get my head around it.

"It has come as a bit of a shock to be honest. We did not expect it and we were not given any indication by Frank Swann that that was what he had found."

Surrey Police had arranged to hold a special briefing on Tuesday to announce their findings.

But on Friday a spokesman said Mr Swann had disagreed with the findings of forensic scientists who carried out initial ballistics examinations.

Clockwise, from top left: Sean Benton, James Collinson, Geoff Gray and Cheryl James
Relatives of the dead refused to believe it was suicide
The spokesman said: "Mr Swann has agreed to meet the other experts to jointly discuss their findings and rationale behind them.

"It is therefore inappropriate to conclude our investigation until this meeting has taken place."

Mr James, who has in the past been broadly supportive of the Surrey Police investigation, said the force had not handled the situation well.

Police criticised

"I think Surrey Police need to reflect on the way they have conducted themselves the last few days," he added.

Mr Swann had said it was "highly unlikely" that bullet wounds to the heads of Cheryl James and Geoff Gray were self-inflicted.

His report also said in the case of Sean Benton, it was possible that two bullet wounds were self-inflicted but "highly unlikely" that three on his torso were.

Mr Swann said it was "unlikely" bullet wounds to the underside of Mr Collinson's chin and head were self-inflicted but it was possible they were the result of an accident.

The BBC's Daniel Boettcher
"It is highly unlikely that many of the fatal bullets were fired by the soldiers themselves"

Frank Swann, Independent Investigator
"We find it highly unlikely in three cases and unlikely in one case"

Deepcut deaths 'not murder'
29 Jul 03  |  Scotland
Deepcut 'U-turn' welcomed
17 Jul 03  |  Scotland
Expert 'solves' Deepcut deaths
27 Feb 03  |  England
Call for Deepcut deaths inquiry
04 Feb 03  |  Scotland

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