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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 February 2006, 17:52 GMT
Soldier gun threat 'seen as joke'
Private James Collinson
Pte Collinson's comments were not taken seriously by his colleagues
A soldier found shot dead at Deepcut barracks said he would kill himself but colleagues thought he was joking, an inquest heard.

It was not taken seriously because Private James Collinson, 17, of Perth, Scotland, was "a jokey person", the hearing in Epsom, Surrey, was told.

It follows inquests into the Deepcut deaths of three other soldiers from Sussex, Wales and County Durham.

Pte Michael Foody and L/Cpl Scott Smith were giving evidence on Wednesday.

Pte Foody told the jury he had been in the guardroom at the Surrey barracks when Pte Collinson made the comment.

He said: "If I knew he was serious I would have gone and told someone but I thought he was just joking around. I thought he was just being his normal self."

'Nobody liked Deepcut'

He said he could see no reason why his friend would have committed suicide.

"Nobody liked it at Deepcut. It is boring and uneventful. I know James didn't like it either but he didn't seem to dislike it more than anyone else," he said.

L/Cpl Smith said he had been on a minibus taking soldiers to guard postings when Pte Collinson said: "Just you wait until I get a rifle. I will kill myself."

L/Cpl Smith said: "He said it in a serious way but then he just went on talking about the girls."

The four Deepcut victims
Clockwise from top left: Sean Benton, James Collinson, Geoff Gray and Cheryl James

L/Cpl Smith said Pte Collinson was not popular with soldiers but denied having seen bullying.

On an evening in March 2003, the inquest heard, Pte Collinson apparently borrowed a rifle - with which he was too young to have been issued - and went to check the perimeter fence.

Minutes later a shot was heard and he was found dead.

Surrey coroner Michael Burgess asked L/Cpl Smith what made Deepcut unpopular, to which he replied: "When you are at Pirbright you are told that Deepcut is all relaxed, chilled out.

"Obviously when you get there it is not, it is not over-strict, but discipline is part of the army so you get a bit of discipline while you are there and I think that's quite a bit of a disappointment."

Staff Sgt Dean Smith, who was the Guard Commander on the night, told the hearing that L/Cpl Smith had informed him of what Pte Collinson had said and how he had "thought he was just joking".

Corporal David King, then a lance corporal, also on duty that evening, told the inquest he found another soldier, Pte John Donnelly, crying later that evening.

He said: "Donnelly was saying 'I shouldn't have given him the gun'."

The hearing follows inquests into the deaths of Pte Sean Benton, from Hastings, Pte Cheryl James, from Llangollen, and Pte Geoff Gray, from Seaham.

The case was adjourned until Thursday.

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