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Tuesday, 4 February, 2003, 16:47 GMT
Father backs Deepcut inquiry call
Deepcut relatives, House of Commons
Relatives of Deepcut victims at the House of Commons
The father of a teenage soldier whose death was one of four mysterious shootings at an Army barracks has backed MPs' calls for a public inquiry.

Cheryl James, 18, from Llangollen, north Wales, died in 1995 at Deepcut barracks in Surrey.

The Army's handling of these situations demands scrutiny, and we believe that only a full public inquiry will ever find out the truth about Deepcut

Des James

Private James' body was found in woodland outside the barracks with a bullet wound in her forehead.

The army said she had committed suicide although an inquest recorded an open verdict.

Her parents, Des and Doreen James, have always disputed Ministry of Defence claims that Cheryl took her own life.

The circumstances of her death and the fatal shootings of three other recruits at Deepcut - Privates Geoff Gray, 17, from Seaham, Co Durham, Sean Benton, 20, from Hastings, East Sussex and James Collinson, 17, from Perth - are currently being reinvestigated by Surrey Police.

Public inquiry

"The Army's handling of these situations demands scrutiny, and we believe that only a full public inquiry will ever find out the truth about Deepcut," Mr James said.

Mr James' call was backed by MPs, who asked for an independent judicial inquiry during an adjournment debate in the Commons on Tuesday.

Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Opik told Parliament that uncertainties about the deaths needed to be clarified.

Deepcut barracks
Deepcut barracks: Scene of shootings

He said: "The army must accept that these kind of uncertainties are not only against the interests of the army in recruitment terms, but also work against the interests of natural justice."

Mr Opik also urged the Government to set up an independent inquiry.

Mr James told BBC News Online: "Despite continuous speculative reports, we have never suggested our daughter was murdered.

"The great sadness is that we do not know how she died, and we probably will never know with any certainty.

"The army's assumption of suicide denied us any thorough investigation at the time.

'Alone'

"Cheryl should not have been armed and alone at the entrance gate where she died.

"Far too many people have come forward with evidence of a quite sinister culture of bullying, which existed at Deepcut.

"We have always believed this to be the case and although we have no evidence to date to believe Cheryl was subjected directly to bullying, it is a serious concern to us that she had to live in such an environment immediately prior to her death."

In the same Commons debate, Perth MP Annabelle Ewing challenged Armed Forces Minister Lewis Moonie to reassure the family of James Collinson that no Government department had sanctioned the bugging of their home.

Cheryl James
Cheryl James died in 1995

Jim and Yvonne Collinson, who believed their son was murdered at Deepcut, claim evidence of monitoring equipment was found after Tayside detectives swept their Perth house.

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

Ms Ewing asked Mr Moonie: "Perhaps you can take the opportunity to reassure the Collinson family and indeed anybody else that there has been no UK department or agency under the responsibility of a UK department involved in any way, in any form of bugging of the Collinson family home."

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


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04 Feb 03 | Scotland
07 Dec 02 | England
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