'Virtual reality' to aid police in Deepcut case

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The Independent Online

Detectives investigating the deaths of four soldiers at Deepcut barracks in Surrey will reconstruct their last movements using sophisticated "virtual reality" computer software.

Detectives investigating the deaths of four soldiers at Deepcut barracks in Surrey will reconstruct their last movements using sophisticated "virtual reality" computer software.

The hi-tech exercise will be based on evidence from nearly 600 witness statements.

A forensic psychologist is also being called in by Surrey police to draw up profiles of the dead soldiers. All died from gunshot wounds at the barracks in the past seven years.

The Ministry of Defence has been accused of a cover up over their deaths.

This week the families of Privates James Collinson, Geoff Gray, Cheryl James and Sean Benton will lobby MPs at the House of Commons and demand a public inquiry.

Military police believe the soldiers committed suicide but their families say they may have been murdered. Firearms experts have cast doubt on evidence that their wounds were self-inflicted.

Last week it was announced that police would handle investigations into military deaths in cases where there was insufficient evidence of suicide.

This follows accusations by the families of the Deepcut soldiers that the police have been too quick to accept assumptions by Army officials that all four killed themselves.

Senior police have refused to comment on reports that they have already drawn up a list of suspects, but they confirmed that murder was one possibility being considered, as well as accidental death and suicide.

Virtual reconstruction is just one of the new methods being used by the police investigating the Deepcut deaths. The technique has already been used in high-profile cases including the murder of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence.

A three-dimensional computer graphic will be used to represent the dead soldiers and the individual images moved around to plot their last movements. This will help police to weed out conflicting evidence from witnesses and generate new lines of inquiry.

Detective Chief Superintendent Craig Denholm of Surrey police said that some details, such as undergrowth at the barracks, had changed over the past seven years but virtual reconstruction was a vital tool in the investigation.

"We know people have been giving us differing accounts of what happened and what we read on paper we can't always imagine in 3D," he said."

The deaths of the young soldiers have raised questions about the culture of the Army. Their families have said that bullying, as well as verbal and sexual harassment, was rife at the barracks.

Girish Thanki, the solicitor representing the relatives, has said the cases highlight the need for reform of an oppressive and backward culture.

Mr Denholm said he appreciated that some witnesses might be concerned about coming forward, but that any information would be treated in the strictest confidence. "This is very much a live investigation," he said.