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Tuesday, 11 February, 2003, 08:47 GMT
Father accuses army over Deepcut letters
Deepcut relatives, House of Commons
Relatives of Deepcut victims at the House of Commons
The father of Private Cheryl James, the north Wales soldier shot dead at the Deepcut barracks in Surrey, is accusing the army of withholding vital evidence.

Des James, whose daughter grew up in Llangollen, said the army failed to inform the coroner about letters discovered after her death in 1995.

Somebody's telling lies

Cheryl James' father, Des James

Mr James told BBC Wales the letters suggested that his daughter was unhappy with life in the army.

An inquiry is continuing into the deaths in mysterious circumstances of four recruits at the Royal Logistical Corps base, Deepcut, Surrey.

The army said Ms James committed suicide although an inquest recorded an open verdict.

Mr James gave evidence at his daughter's inquest that she had appeared to have been happy during her time in the army.

This, he now says, is what he believed at the time, but he had not been told about his daughter's letters - some to her friends, and many of them un-posted - which were in the army's possession.

Cheryl James
Cheryl James died in 1995

The army has claimed it made the coroner aware of the letters - a claim which has been vigorously denied by the coroner's office.

Mr James said "The letters were the subject of a number of questions I put to the army in February of '96 when they were returned to us three months after Cheryl died.

"The {letters'} general theme was that she was not too happy in the army, which was quite a surprise to us, my wife and I, because when I was called to give evidence to the coroner, in December of '95, I said what I believed to be the truth - that she was perfectly happy in the army.

"These letters, were not returned to us, we weren't aware of them until February of '96, almost three months later.

'Truth'

"In themselves, there was nothing untoward, other than this continual theme that she was not happy with the army."

He said he then questioned the army over its handling of the letters.

"It took us 10 weeks - we couldn't get any rely from the army.

"Eventually in April, we finally had a reply the MoD where they specifically stated that the letters were brought to the attention of the coroner.

"We attended the inquest and we certainly weren't aware that that was the truth.

"It's only this last week that I've found out that the coroner's officer has made a statement to the effect that he is certain that he has never seen these letters, so somebody's telling lies.

"It's for the army, the MoD, to explain why they withheld the letters from us and why they told us that the letters were brought to the attention of the coroner when it now transpires that they did not."

The circumstances of Ms James' 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


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09 Feb 03 | UK
04 Feb 03 | Wales
04 Feb 03 | Scotland
07 Dec 02 | England
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