Private Cheryl James inquest: Family of soldier asks for her body to be exhumed

The 18-year-old was found with a single gunshot wound to the head in November 1995

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The Independent Online

The body of a young woman soldier who died from a gunshot wound at Deepcut Barracks should be exhumed as part of a new investigation into her death, her family have said.

The request for an exhumation was made today to a judge presiding over a new inquest into the way Private Cheryl James died at the notorious Surrey military training base, where four recruits died between 1995 and 2002 amid allegations of hazing.

The new inquest was ordered earlier this year after the High Court overturned the original open verdict and ruled there had been an “insufficiency of inquiry” at the hearing, which lasted a single hour.

Lawyers for Private James’ family asked Judge Brian Barker, the Recorder of London, to order a re-examination of her remains on the basis that it could provide new ballistics evidence which would cast new light on the circumstances of her death.

The 18-year-old, from Llangollen, north Wales, was found with a single gunshot wound to the head in November 1995 and was the second soldier to die at Deepcut after the death of Private Sean Benton six months earlier.

Private James’s family have always rejected suggestions that she may have killed herself. Her father, Des, led a 19-year campaign to secure a fresh inquiry into her death. She had been undergoing basic training with the Royal Logistics Corps.

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The Deepcut Barracks in Surrey (Getty)

The original inquest verdict was quashed after the family used the Human Rights Act to secure access to cache of documents which they argued was never fully examined.

Judge Barker, who was holding a pre-inquest hearing, said he wanted to time to consider the exhumation request and other matters before the new hearing due to take place next Easter. It is expected to last up to two months.

Fresh inquests into the deaths of Private Benton and two other young soldiers - Private Geoff Gray and Private James Collinson - will then follow.

The Deepcut deaths prompted two police investigations amid allegations of systematic bullying at the training base and a cover-up of abuse by the Army. Surrey Police was later criticised for its handling of the case and its refusal to surrender documentation to the family of Private James.