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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 March 2006, 10:28 GMT 11:28 UK
Families wait for Deepcut report
THE DEAD SOLDIERS
The four Deepcut victims
(Clockwise from top left):
Sean Benton, 20, Hastings, East Sussex
James Collinson, 17, Perth, Scotland
Geoff Gray, 17, Seaham, Co Durham
Cheryl James, 18, Llangollen, north Wales

An independent report on the deaths of four young soldiers at the Deepcut army barracks is due to be published.

The document, leaked at the weekend, follows a 12-month review by deputy High Court judge Nicholas Blake QC.

The soldiers' families, who also want a public inquiry, hope it will conclude their deaths were not suicides.

The report will criticise some army officers but is not expected to ask for a public inquiry, said BBC defence correspondent Paul Wood.

Recruits Sean Benton, 20, of Hastings, East Sussex; James Collinson, 17, of Perth, Scotland; Geoff Gray, 17, of Seaham, Co Durham, and Cheryl James, 18, Llangollen, north Wales, died of bullet wounds at the Surrey training base in separate incidents between 1995 and 2002.

Media attention

Army investigations found they had taken their own lives.

But although an inquest recorded a suicide verdict on Mr Benton, open verdicts were recorded for Miss James, Mr Gray and Mr Collinson.

HAVE YOUR SAY
There is no reason why soldiers can't be treated with the same respect as every other employee
Vincent Murphy, UK

The soldiers' families have always maintained their children did not kill themselves.

Independent ballistics expert Frank Swann, who investigated the deaths for the police and later for the families, concluded that in the case of Pte Sean Benton - who was found dead with five gunshot wounds - it was impossible that he could have killed himself.

In another two cases he concluded it was "highly unlikely" and in the fourth "unlikely" that the soldiers took their own lives.

Since the first investigations were held there have been claims of a widespread culture of bullying and abuse at the barracks.

Mr Blake initially intended to produce his report - ordered by Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram - last summer.

We just know that something else has gone on there
Diane Gray, mother of Geoff Gray

But his investigation was delayed by a series of obstacles, including confidentiality agreements over statements to police, the fact that one of the inquests was still pending and issues with the Data Protection Act.

The Mail on Sunday this week reported that 14 current and former Deepcut soldiers would be singled out for criticism.

But our correspondent told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The inquiry team itself is adamant it hasn't yet sent out any copies of the report."

"The MoD will confirm that it has advised some officers that they may become the subject of media attention and will give them guidance on how to deal with that attention," he added.

He said whether Mr Blake would call for prosecutions was "another matter".

An inquiry by Surrey Police did not call for prosecutions.

Three separate probes into aspects of Surrey Police's handling of the death inquiries have also been taking place.

One was concluded in the summer; another in November 2005; and the third is under way.

'Instil character'

The Army also still has to hold internal inquiries into two of the deaths.

The soldiers' families, who are being supported by Amnesty International, will continue to call for a public inquiry if a recommendation is not included in the report.

They say Mr Blake carried out his investigations behind closed doors, did not have the power to compel testimony, and cannot demand that his findings are enforced.

An awful lot has changed at these training establishments as a result of all these reports
Retired Major General Patrick Cordingley

Diane Gray, the mother of Geoff Gray, told BBC Radio Five Live she believed her son had been murdered.

"It just amazes me that they can come back and say that it was suicide; it's just wrong. We just know that something else has gone on there, and we need to find this out.

"If they had just given us a public inquiry in the first place, it would have been a lot cheaper than all these reports that are going on now," she said.

Colonel John Hughes-Wilson, who used to train special forces recruits, told Five Live he also believed something "very wrong" went on at the barracks.

"It is very, very easy to go over the line, in trying to instil some character and some discipline in basic training, into bullying and harshness.

"That's why the Deepcut thing stinks - and that's why you need very tight control by the officers, at absolutely the lowest level, to stop this kind of thing."

Diane Gray with photo of her son Geoff
Diane Gray and her husband have campaigned tirelessly

But retired Major General Patrick Cordingley - who led the Desert Rats in the 1991 Gulf War - told Today he doubted anything new would emerge, after 16 previous reports into the deaths.

"That will be disappointing for the families. But I am not quite certain what the Army can do about that. I think I myself have felt there should have been a public inquiry."

He added: "All one can say which is positive is that an awful lot has changed at these training establishments as a result of all these reports, and that must be good for the future of training."

Paul Wood said many people expected Mr Blake to find systemic failings in the training of young recruits and a culture of bullying, but fall short of the demand for a public inquiry.

He said: "A lot of people accept [the bullying culture] did lead to these deaths in Deepcut, whether they are suicides as the Army maintains, or something more sinister as the families believe."




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Listen to the father of one of the soldiers



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