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Last Updated: Sunday, 6 January 2008, 12:41 GMT
Deepcut inquiry fight to continue
Des James
Des James says he is confident a public inquiry will be held
The father of a soldier who died at a Surrey barracks says he will continue to fight for a public inquiry, even if the site is bulldozed.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has earmarked the Deepcut training camp for a housing development, according to newspaper reports.

Cheryl James, 18, from Denbighshire, was one of four soldiers who died at the barracks between 1995 and 2002.

Des James said he is confident that a public inquiry will eventually be held.

An MoD commissioned review of the four Deepcut deaths in 2006 found what was described as "clear evidence of foul abuse" and a failure to identify potential risks at the barracks.

But the report by Nicholas Blake QC rejected calls for a public inquiry, recommending instead that an armed forces ombudsman be appointed.

Recruits

Private Cheryl James, from Llangollen, was discovered with a single bullet wound to her head at the barracks in November 1995.

Private Cheryl James
An inquest into Cheryl James' death recorded open verdict

Three other recruits Sean Benton, 20, of Hastings, East Sussex; James Collinson, 17, of Perth; and Geoff Gray, 17, of Seaham, Co Durham died at Deepcut from bullet wounds.

The Blake review concluded that "on the balance of probabilities" the deaths of Privates Collinson, Benton and Gray were self-inflicted.

However, an inquest into the death of Pte James returned an open verdict.

According to the Sunday Telegraph and Mail on Sunday, the Deepcut barracks could now be torn down to make way for an "eco-friendly" housing estate, with 5,000 homes.

"It's ironic that they want to build an environmentally-friendly housing development there," said Cheryl James' father, Des, who now lives at Llanymynech, near Welshpool, in Powys.

"As far as we are concerned, Deepcut was one of the most unfriendly environments you could imagine."

Unhelpful

Mr James said he also felt that bulldozing the barracks could hinder any future public inquiry, as the buildings at the centre of allegations of bullying and abuse are no longer present.

"I don't think it would help any meaningful inquiry, that's obvious," he added.

"It would be rather unfortunate if the proposal goes ahead."

However, Mr James insisted that, regardless of any announcement on the future of the barracks, the dead soldiers' parents fight for a public inquiry will continue.

"It can only end in a meaningful inquiry that the government has tried to suppress," he said.

"We feel very confident that at some time that it will happen."

Defence ministers are understood to be making a parliamentary statement this week detailing the closure of Deepcut but the MoD has refused to comment on the plans.

Am MoD spokesman said: "There is an on-going review aimed at maximising defence training outputs but we cannot pre-empt any statements that ministers might make in due course to Parliament."

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Des James says they are determined to get an inquiry





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