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Last Updated: Monday, 8 March, 2004, 15:35 GMT
Instructor cleared over cave death
Matthew Doubtfire arriving at court
Matthew Doubtfire has been formally cleared of manslaughter
A caving instructor has been cleared of causing the death of an army recruit who drowned in an underground cave pool.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has decided not to pursue a new trial in the case of Matthew Doubtfire, who was accused of the death of 17-year-old Kevin Sharman from Marlpool, Derbyshire.

Mr Sharman drowned while on a training course in a cave complex in the Brecon Beacons in July 2002.

On Friday, a jury at Swansea Crown Court cleared Mr Doubtfire, 33, from Monmouth, south Wales, of a charge of manslaughter through gross neglect.

The jury was then discharged after failing to reach a majority verdict on a different manslaughter charge.

Porth-yr-Ogof
Kevin Sharman died at the Porth-yr-Ogof cave complex

The CPS announced on Monday that it would not pursue that charge and a formal not guilty verdict was entered in court.

The court heard that after consideration over the weekend, CPS lawyers had concluded it would "not be appropriate" to press for a retrial.

Mr Doubtfire's defence team said after the hearing: "Ever since this tragedy his (Mr Doubtfire's) thoughts have been with Kevin Sharman and his family.

"He hopes that the evidence heard during the trial has allowed Kevin's family and the wider public to understand how this accident happened.

"He hopes that the outcome of this trial will encourage the Ministry of Defence to review its training procedure, especially in relation to recruits sent on external leadership courses despite having failed the military swimming test."

At the beginning of the seven-week trial, Mr Doubtfire denied a charge of manslaughter through gross negligence.

Kevin Sharman
The jury heard that Kevin Sharman could not swim

The charge was later split into variations: One of manslaughter through gross negligence - that he deliberately and knowingly lead the recruits into the pool; the other of manslaughter - that he did so mistakenly.

Jurors found him not guilty of the former and on Monday the CPS announced it would drop the outstanding charge.

Kevin Sharman was among a group of 11 trainees on the first day of an adventure training course at an underground pool at the Porth-yr-Ogof cave complex in the upper Neath Valley.

During the trial, the jury had been told that Mr Sharman, who was a non-swimmer, panicked and drowned after getting out of his depth while in the watery underground passageways.

Mr Doubtfire, who led the group through the seven-metre deep Resurgence pool, said he had never before been to the pool which, the court heard, had claimed the lives of other cavers.

He did not give evidence himself in court, but his defence counsel said he had taken a wrong entrance into the cave and unwittingly led the group into danger.

He had been employed by the Ministry of Defence to put recruits through a week of adventure training which involved caving, canoeing, mountaineering, and conservation work.


SEE ALSO:
Cave death jury discharged
05 Mar 04  |  South West Wales
Caving death guide stays silent
24 Feb 04  |  Derbyshire
Man in court over caving death
25 Feb 03  |  Wales


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