Deepcut report reveals gang-rape claims

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The Independent Online

The controversy surrounding the death of four Army recruits at Deepcut barracks was re-ignited yesterday as a leaked report revealed 170 allegations, including gang rape, bullying and sexual harassment.

The controversy surrounding the death of four Army recruits at Deepcut barracks was re-ignited yesterday as a leaked report revealed 170 allegations, including gang rape, bullying and sexual harassment.

The Surrey Police report, passed in confidence to the Commons Defence Select Committee, details claims of violent and sexual abuse as well as degrading treatment and racism towards army trainees.

Last night, Diane Gray, whose 17-year-old son, Geoff, was found dead at the Surrey barracks, described the report as "utterly appalling". The teenager's father, Geoff Gray, added it was "mind-blowing" and he "felt sick" he had allowed his son to attend the camp. "It is completely disgusting what has been allowed to happen. It is a catalogue of abuse. The Ministry of Defence knows it is going on but does nothing about it," said Mrs Gray.

Geoff Gray was among four recruits who died of gunshot wounds at Deepcut between 1995 and 2002. Their families have always insisted they did not kill themselves though an investigation by Surrey Police said it found no evidence of foul play. It did, however, condemn the treatment of trainees, pointing out that the same issues had been repeatedly raised over the past 15 years.

This latest report, while not focusing on the four deaths but on the years the youngsters died, appears to lend weight to claims of systematic bullying at the barracks. Surrey Police, however, were quick to point out these were untested allegations and advised that they be treated with caution. Last night, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said it had indicated to police months ago that it wished to investigate the most serious claims "as a matter of urgency". Only two of the complainants had given consent for their details to be handed over and the MoD said it was still awaiting these.

The report's annexes list dozens of serious allegations, from both male and female recruits. According to the dossier, when one former female trainee went to the guardroom at the barracks to complain she had been raped, she was told she would be "disciplined for being in the male accommodation". Another said that her complaint of rape had been ignored. Another said she had been urinated on during the night by an officer, while others claimed they had been indecently assaulted while in bed.

The dossier includes claims that trainees were forced to parade in the middle of the night in their underwear, while on another occasion they were allegedly forced to stand outside in their boxer shorts while an officer threw darts at them.

While some complained of being physically injured by bullies, others said the anguish led to nervous breakdowns or attempted suicides. One said he had put a gun in his mouth and considered shooting himself "due to the constant abuse".

At least three families are due to give evidence before the committee this week as part of its investigation into the duty-of-care regimes of all three armed services. Yesterday, Geoff Gray's parents insisted the committee would not answer the questions they had and called once again for a full public inquiry.