'Russian roulette' death link to Deepcut

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The Independent Online

The mother of a British soldier who allegedly shot himself during a game of Russian roulette has joined a growing number of army families demanding fresh investigations into the mysterious deaths of servicemen and women on army bases at home and now abroad.

Corporal Ian Holt, 28, of the Royal Electrical and Mech-anical Engineers, died in 1991 while serving in Belize. But 13 years on his mother, Norma Langford, says there are many question marks over his death.

The Deepcut and Beyond campaign has grown out of the killings of four recruits at the Deepcut Army barracks in Surrey between 1995 and 2002. Last week Peter Hain, the Leader of the House of Commons, said of the deaths that there were "too many to be a coincidence".

Campaigners are concerned that there are even fewer controls in other countries, such as Germany, where allegations of death or injury on British bases are not investigated by civilian police forces.

This week The Independent on Sunday uncovered the case of Corporal Holt. His mother disputes the official findings, saying numerous discrepancies cast doubt on the official version of events.

Mrs Langford said: "I just don't know what happened. I've never seen the Board of Inquiry report, and have only recently obtained autopsy reports from the coroner. I don't know what injuries he was supposed to have had, but at first we were told it was an accidental shooting with a faulty gun. Then we were told it was Russian roulette.

"I remember phoning up the Army a year after Ian's death and being told it was none of my business. We just want the truth. But when you can't get the truth it makes you wonder what the truth is."

There is also the case of Alfie Manship, a former Deepcut soldier who died in Germany in 1992 from gunshot wounds. And in another case abroad, Aled Jones was an 18-year-old driver for the Queen's Dragoons Guards on peacekeeping duties in Bosnia when he was found with a bullet wound to the head in 1996. His mother, Elaine Higgins, says: "I don't know what happened, but it has not been investigated properly. There was no civilian inquiry."

David Shipley, another former Deepcut recruit, was found drowned in a paddling pool in Germany in 2002 days after his posting.

Geoff Gray, whose son, also called Geoff, was found dead at Deepcut with two bullet wounds to the head in 1991, said: "We are campaigning for civilian inquiries into all foreign bases," he said.

An MoD spokeswoman said: "We strive very hard to provide support for bereaved families. This is an extremely difficult job to get right and we have made mistakes. We deeply regret the death of anyone in our charge and we are working hard to improve procedures and the time it takes for Boards of Inquiry to complete their work."