Army chiefs to face questions over Deepcut recruits' deaths

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The Independent Online

Top-ranking army officers are to face questioning for the first time in connection with the death of four young recruits at Deepcut barracks.

A long-awaited review of the deaths at the Surrey base, which will be presented to ministers this week, is expected to call for military officials to be brought before a public inquiry.

It is understood that the report, by Nicholas Blake QC, will also be hugely critical of how the military mislaid evidence and failed to investigate properly the deaths of Geoff Gray, James Collinson, Sean Benton and Cheryl James.

This comes as new figures detailing the number of suicides in the armed forces will be presented to ministers this week. They are expected to show a far higher rate of suicide among army soldiers under the age of 20 than among ordinary teenagers. The Deepcut deaths have raised serious concerns about a culture of bullying within the armed forces, among both recruits and officers.

Whitehall sources believe that the report will call for an independent inquiry held in public, although may fall short of recommending a full public inquiry.

Earlier this month, Michael Burgess, the coroner who recorded an open verdict at the inquest of Private Collinson, added his voice to calls for an inquiry.

The families of the Deepcut victims said that only a full public inquiry could uncover the truth about how their children died.

Geoff Gray, whose son died at the age of 17, said: "A public inquiry would end the supply of disturbing new questions and let us as families start to grieve."