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Tuesday, 4 February, 2003, 14:42 GMT
Call for Deepcut deaths inquiry
Deepcut Barracks
Police are investigating deaths at Deepcut Barracks
MPs have been demanding an independent public inquiry into the number of deaths of soldiers at the Deepcut Army Barracks.

However, Armed Forces Minister Lewis Moonie insisted the rate of suicide in the army was similar to that in the wider population.

Ministers were also asked for an assurance that the home of one of the soldiers who died was not bugged.

The allegation was raised by the Perth MP Annabelle Ewing during a debate in the Commons.

Private James Collinson
Private James Collinson was found dead at the barracks
Private Geoff Gray, 17, from Seaham, County Durham; Private Sean Benton, 20, from Hastings, East Sussex; Private Collinson, 17, from Perth; and Private Cheryl James, from Llangollen, north Wales, died from gunshot wounds at the barracks between 1995 and 2002.

Their families do not believe they committed suicide by turning their own rifles on themselves, as Army investigations concluded.

Opening the debate Hull North MP Kevin McNamara claimed relatives of the Deepcut victims felt the "Establishment had closed ranks against them".

Mr McNamara told MPs: "I believe there is overwhelming public interest for establishing a judicial inquiry with the powers necessary to appoint investigators and determine the truth.

"Such an inquiry should be UK-wide, cover all parts of the armed services, meet in public and publish its findings."

Bugging claim

But the armed forces minister said the rate of suicide and deaths subject to open verdicts were "broadly comparable" between army personnel and the population at large

Scottish National Party MP Annabelle Ewing challenged Mr Moonie to reassure the family of James Collinson that no Government department had sanctioned the bugging of their home.

Jim and Yvonne Collinson claim evidence of monitoring equipment was found after Tayside detectives swept their Perth home.

But the police say no such equipment was found and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) says the Collinsons' claims are misguided.

Ms Ewing also criticised MoD procedures regarding Pte Collinson as inadequate.

Annabelle Ewing
Annabelle Ewing raised question of bugging
"There had been no forensic post mortem, there had been no securing of the crime scene ... Surely something is wrong with a system that allows such conclusions to be reached without any proper investigation being conducted."

For the Tories, Gerald Howarth said the debate was "somewhat premature" as the Surrey Police inquiry was still under way.

Mr Howarth, vice chair of the defence select committee, said the committee believed there were grounds for a defence committee inquiry into conditions at Deepcut.

"We will decide on the scope and nature of that inquiry once the police inquiries are complete," he said.

Mr Howarth also said there had clearly been inadequate liaison between the army and families when such tragedies occurred.

Mr Moonie said the Surrey Police investigation would not conclude until early March.

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07 Dec 02 | England
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