Page last updated at 05:10 GMT, Thursday, 7 August 2008 06:10 UK

Parents inspired by Deepcut play

By Angie Brown
Edinburgh reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Clockwise from top left - Sean Benton, James Collinson, Geoff Gray, Cheryl James
The four soldiers' deaths happened between 1995 and 2002

The parents of soldiers who died at Deepcut army barracks said an Edinburgh festival show on the issue has renewed their fight for a public inquiry.

Yvonne and Jim Collinson's son, Pte James Collinson, 17, from Perth, was found with a single gunshot wound to his head in March 2002.

Four deaths at the base are the subject of the new Fringe play.

The parents of another soldier who died, Cheryl James from north Wales, also saw the production on Wednesday.

Mrs Collinson, who saw the show, Deep Cut, for the first time, told the BBC Scotland news website the experience was overwhelming and emotional.

"I hope this will put the public eye and public pressure back on the case for a public inquiry," she said.

The play was portrayed so well that it really got us angry again
Yvonne Collinson
"I think, watching the performance, anyone who left and didn't believe we should have a public inquiry would have been very few and far between."

She went on: "I think the play was portrayed so well that it really got us angry again, it really gave me the wind under my wings to get going again because, as was also portrayed in the play, you do get tired, you do think, 'where else have we got to turn'.

"I think it's not over until it's over and it's not over yet."

Mr Collinson added: "It's something we need, as it brings it back to the forefront again, that the families are still here, that they are still trying to fight for justice."

Allegations of bullying and abuse at Deepcut, in Surrey, were made after the soldiers' deaths, which occurred between 1995 and 2002.

The play, by Cardiff-based theatre company Sherman Cymru, looked at the aftermath of the deaths and, in particular, the effect on the parents of another soldier who died, Pte Cheryl James, 18, from Llangollen, north Wales.

'Intense' story

Writer Philip Ralph spent two years writing the play, and held face-to-face interviews with family members and scoured public documents and media reports.

Des James, Cheryl's father, made a moving speech near the end of the show, which had many audience members crying.

He added: "If the show only moves us a millimetre towards a public inquiry then it is a success. There isn't any other goal.

Actors Ciaran McIntyre and Rhian Morgan playing Des and Doreen James
The parents of Pte Cheryl James featured in the play

"It is like the condensation of 13 years of your life revealed to you in one-and-a-half-hours and, even though you know the story, it's the intensity of that, you even then start thinking, 'this is bad' and then you remember it's about you. It's weird."

Pte Sean Benton, 20, from Hastings, was found dead with gunshot wounds at the barracks in June 1995, just months before Pte James's death.

In September 2001, 17-year-old Pte Geoff Gray, from Seaham, Co Durham, was discovered with two gunshot wounds to his head.

Six months later, Pte Collinson was found with a gunshot wound upwards through his chin.

Inquests into the deaths recorded a verdict of suicide in Pte Benton's case and open verdicts for the other three.

An independent review of the deaths, conducted by Nicholas Blake QC, concluded in March 2006 that the deaths were probably self-inflicted.

However, Mr Blake criticised army training, citing "harassment, discrimination and oppressive behaviour".

The MoD announced the closure of Deepcut on 8 January as part of a review to overhaul training facilities across the UK.

Deep Cut is being staged at the Traverse until 24 August, before heading to Mold in north Wales, and Cardiff.


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