The family of a military police officer who was found hanging at her barracks after she accused two soldiers of rape accused the Ministry of Defence of a potential “cover-up” yesterday following the last-minute disclosure of new evidence to her inquest.
The coroner presiding over the three-week hearing into the death in 2011 of Corporal Anne-Marie Ellement had been due to deliver his verdict but ordered a week-long adjournment after lawyers for the Army revealed an inventory listing documents and items - including three mobile phones and a personal diary - had been found in recent days.
Neither the phones nor the diary, which military investigators noted contained one page which would be “sensitive and upsetting”, were produced at the inquest or shown to relatives who attended. In total, 1,400 previously unseen files will now be disclosed to Cpl Ellement’s family for the first time.
A lawyer for the MoD insisted the omission of the material had been accidental and said it had gone to “exceptional lengths” to disclose all material relevant to the death of Cpl Ellement, who it is claimed was bullied after she made the complaint of rape while posted in Germany in 2009. Military investigators declined to bring charges.
Speaking after the hearing in Salisbury, Cpl Ellement’s sister, Khristina Swain, said: “I’m so angry and so upset after waiting all this time to get where we are, to find out we haven’t had all the information and documents we actually need - I’m just absolutely devastated.
“Why haven’t we been told this stuff? Why has it been held? We just want the truth, that’s all. In my eyes, I feel there could be a cover-up.”
The inquest is the second to be heard into the death of the 30-year-old soldier after her family won a rare High Court ruling quashing the original verdict following a complaint that the circumstances behind her death had not been fully considered.
The document listing the undisclosed material was discovered by Army lawyers last week, after all witnesses had finished giving their testimony.
The court heard that it was thought the mobile phones and diary, which were found in Cpl Ellement’s room following her death at Bulford Barracks near Salisbury, may have been released to her father, who is estranged from other family members.
Nicholas Rheinberg, the deputy coroner for Swindon and Wiltshire, said he wanted “all urgency” applied to efforts to try to find any missing items or documents. He added that there was also a “danger” in seeking information which it might be “unrealistic to find”.
The MoD said that much of the new material was not related to the circumstances of Cpl Ellement’s death and was linked to her own casework as an officer in the Royal Military Police (RMP). But the court heard that 29 of the files had been deemed relevant to the inquest, including a note of an interview she had been due to attend the day after her death in October 2011.
The body of Cpl Ellement was found hanging in her room after she had written “I’m sorry” in lipstick on a mirror. The inquest heard that the young soldier had complained of a campaign to isolate and intimidate her after she made the complaint that she had been raped following a night out in Germany in 2009.
When a subsequent RMP investigation found insufficient grounds to bring charges, Cpl Ellement was “absolutely devastated” and began to face taunts that she had “cried rape”, the inquest heard. A box of crickets was released into her room and on another occasion a soldier was reprimanded for discussing the allegations in front of others.
A female colleague, who had been the girlfriend of one of the accused soldiers and was alleged to have directed a campaign against Cpl Ellement after she returned to Britain, said she had no recollection of vowing to make her life “hell”, nor of calling her a “slag” and a “liar”. But the soldier admitted she had “possibly” used the words in anger.
Sharon Hardy, 44, who is Cpl Ellement’s second sister, told the inquest: “When she died, my immediate thoughts were the Army, the rape, the bullying and the overwork.”
Nicholas Moss, the lawyer representing the MoD at the inquest, said there was “no evidence of a cover-up” in the late production of the undisclosed material.
For confidential support call the Samaritans in the UK on 08457 90 90 90, visit a local Samaritans branch or click here for details.