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Friday, 26 July, 2002, 17:29 GMT 18:29 UK
'Inquiry into army deaths must wait'
Deepcut recruits
Four recruits at Deepcut have died since 1995
The Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon has said it is too early to begin a public inquiry into the deaths of four recruits at a military barracks in Surrey.

However, Mr Hoon said he was doing everything possible to find out what had happened at the Deepcut barracks in Surrey.

Sean Benton, 20, and 17-year-olds Cheryl James, Geoff Gray and James Collinson, died at the Princess Royal Barracks between 1995 and March 2002.

On Friday it was revealed that the army had destroyed some of the evidence requested by detectives investigating the deaths of the four young recruits.

Public inquiry

Surrey Police have reopened their investigations into the deaths of all the soldiers after Private James Collinson was found dead from a single gunshot wound in March.


It's clear that something significant has been going on - bullying, murder, whatever

Geoff Gray
The army says the clothes and documents were disposed of only after the civilian and military inquiries into the deaths had been completed.

Mr Hoon said: "I don't think it makes sense at this stage to say there should be a public inquiry when we do not know what the Surrey police inquiry will reveal.

"That's why our own internal inquiries are awaiting whatever the Surrey police find by way of an explanation for these tragic and appalling events."

Surrey Police have said the army had co-operated fully with detectives and any speculation "could hinder both the current investigation and any prosecutions that may result".

Assistant Chief Constable Frank Clarke said: "The army has cooperated fully with the police investigation, providing every assistance that we have requested and full access to all personnel.

But Private Gray's father, Geoff, said: "There is no reason for such evidence to be destroyed by the army on the night Geoff died.

"There simply has to be a public inquiry now this information has come out.

'Very distressing'

"It's clear that something significant has been going on - bullying, murder, whatever.

"We have to be allowed full public access now, get in there, and just rip the place apart.

Private James Collinson
Private Collinson died earlier this year

Private Benton's mother, Linda, of Hastings, East Sussex, said that each revelation made it harder for the family.

"It's been very, very hard. I find it very distressing, and I'm starting to get angry now too.

"I think there has to be a public inquiry now, with this evidence being destroyed. If the army doesn't want one, we will have to start asking why."

Some of the parents of those killed believe the disposal of the evidence could hamper the inquiry.

Gunshot wounds

An army spokesman said it could not have known that the investigation would be reopened and it would have been normal to dispose of material no longer needed.

He said nothing had been destroyed to obstruct the police investigation.

The parents of Private James Collinson, who died from a single gunshot wound in March of this year, do not believe he killed himself.

Private Collinson's father, also called James, said: "I don't think that my son did take his own life.

Five bullets

"I think there's somebody in that camp who has taken these young soldiers' lives away from them."

His belief is shared by Geoff Gray, from Seaham in County Durham whose son, Private Geoff Gray, died from two gunshot wounds to the head while on guard duty last September.

Private Sean Benton, 20, from Hastings, Sussex, was found dead in June 1995 with five bullet wounds in the chest.

Private Cheryl James, 17, from Llangollen in north Wales, died in 1995 from a gunshot wound to the head.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Paul Adams reports
"Four mysterious deaths in seven years and a host of unanswered questions"
The BBC's Andrew Hosken
"The army insists... it could have not have known that detectives would reopen enquiries"
Former spokesman on defence, Kevin McNamara
"It's quite surprising that evidence should be destroyed in this way"

Click here for more from Southern Counties

More news from north east Wales
See also:

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