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Cheryl James verdict: No unlawful killing

Created on 03/06/2016 @ 16:18
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A Llanymynech Army recruit was not unlawfully killed at Deepcut Barracks a coroner has ruled - but he made a scathing attack on the standards at the base.

Eighteen year old Private Cheryl James, whose parents Des and Doreen James live in Llanymynech, was found with a fatal head wound on November 27, 1995.

Her parents today returned to Woking Coroners Court to hear the verdict of the second inquest into their daughter's death.
The young female recruit died from a gunshot wound to the head while on guard duty at the Surrey base in November 1995 - one of four recruits who died there over seven years.

Delivering his conclusion following a three-month inquest into her death, Coroner Brian Barker QC said he was satisfied there is "no" evidence she was unlawfully killed.

He said: "When I ask myself if there is sufficient evidence with which I can properly reach a conclusion of unlawful killing the only answer I have is 'no'."

A fresh inquest was ordered into her death after High Court judges quashed an open verdict recorded in December 1995.

The coroner said Deepcut Army barracks had failed in its duty of care to its young recruits, with far too few officers to train and look after the recruits, who were left bored and indisciplined.

Launching a scathing attack on welfare standards at Deepcut, Mr Barker said the general culture of the base fell below the standard expected, saying the "haphazard provision of welfare support was insufficient".

He also highlighted a culture of sexual promiscuity and heavy drinking at the Surrey base.

Mr Barker said the Army accepted that some instructors "saw young females as a sexual challenge".

He added: "The evidence of this inquest supports the presence of consensual but improper relations between instructors and trainees."

He was also scathing about the poor quality of the initial investigation into Pte James' death, saying there was an early assumption of suicide.

The scene was also compromised and not adequately investigated and ballistics tests were not carried out to see if the bullet was fired by her rifle.

There was no forensic post-mortem examination, no detailed record of the presence or absence of gunshot residue, and bullet fragments were not preserved.

Pte James' clothes were also burned, and interviews of those at the barracks were inadequate.

Mr Barker said: "This has left unanswered questions which understandably fuelled speculation as to how Ms James died."

And in the absence of direct scientific evidence, experts investigating later were left to form conclusions without the evidence they usually have available to them.

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