No arrests in Deepcut barracks probe despite three-year investigation

Police probe into new allegations of assault and misconduct at scandal-hit Deepcut Barracks has so far failed to make any arrests after almost three years

  • Four soldiers died from gunshot wounds at Deepcut between 1995 and 2002 
  • Surrey Police launched a criminal investigation into the deaths three years ago
  • Inquests into the  deaths outlined the terrible abuse suffered by the soldiers 

The investigation into new allegations of assault and misconduct at Deepcut barracks has failed to make an arrest after almost three years.

Surrey Police were forced to open the new investigation when fresh evidence lead to demands from the families of four recruits shot dead at the barracks.

Police announced the probe after the second inquest into the death of a young recruit heard shocking new allegations and former soldiers who served at Deepcut continue to come forward.

Four young soldiers died from gunshot wounds at Deepcut between 1995 and 2002.

During the second round of inquests into their deaths, former soldiers gave first hand accounts of horrendous abuse at the Princess Royal Barracks.

The new investigation was confirmed by Surrey Police in February 2019 following a review after the second inquest into the death of Sean Benton.

Surrey Police launched a criminal investigation following the deaths of four army recruits at Deepcut barracks between 1995 and 2002 amid allegations of bullying 

Inquests into the deaths of the four recruits cited the problem of bullying at Deepcut barracks, pictured

Private James Collinson, 17, from Perth, top left, Private Cheryl James, 18, from Llangollen, North Wales, top right, Private Sean Benton, from Hastings, East Sussex, bottom left, and Private Geoff Gray, from Seaham, Durham, bottom right, all died at the barracks

His inquest concluded in 2018 and the force announced they had launched a new investigation at the start of the second inquest for Geoff Gray in 2019.

So far, Surrey police have not been able to confirm anybody has been arrested, cautioned or charged since the new investigation launched.

A spokesman for Surrey Police could only say the investigation is still ongoing.

The second round of inquests into three of the deaths were held at the coroner’s court in Woking from 2016 to 2019.

During the second Sean Benton inquest, several former soldiers gave evidence about the abuse they suffered at Deepcut.

Sgt Andrew Gavaghan was named by many as being involved in incidents at the camp.

Another NCO, Sgt Major Martin Holder was also named by former soldiers.

A group known as the Respirator Gang were also sighted as being involved in late night beatings.

His Honour Judge Peter Rook QC decided Pte Benton had taken his own life.

The 20-year-old shot himself five times in the chest, the coroner concluded.

Pte Geoff Gray’s father Geoff Snr said: ‘The police investigation should have been wrapped up by now whatever the outcome.

‘It would appear that Surrey Police have buried Deepcut for ever.’

Des James, whose daughter Cheryl died from gunshot wounds at Deepcut in 1995, said he is still frustrated by the lack of accountability at Surrey Police and the MoD.

‘I think the MoD and Surrey Police got a free pass.

‘Four kids died in a camp we now know was out of control and just because no evidence turned up at the inquest doesn’t mean there wasn’t any.

‘No one was very keen to look for it, of course, given the delay they created.

‘All in all, it was never properly bottomed and those kids deserved more.

‘Until it is, if ever, the abuse cases continue to appear,’ Mr James said.

In February 2019, a Surrey Police statement said: ‘Following the conclusion of the inquest into Private Sean Benton’s death last year, Surrey Police reviewed the findings documented by the Coroner and the Benton family’s request for a new criminal investigation into allegations including assault and misconduct in public office at the Princess Royal Barracks, Deepcut.

‘This review was completed and a criminal investigation is underway into a number of allegations.

‘As this remains a live investigation, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.’

Former soldiers continue to come forward with new allegations.

One former serviceman who asked not to be named claimed a gun was pointed at him during his time in training at Pirbright.

The former solider said the muzzle of the gun was pressed into his face.

Surrey Police confirmed this week, the investigation is still ongoing.

Deepcut: A timeline of key events

April 1993: The Royal Barracks, Deepcut, an Army base since around 1900, becomes the home of the newly formed Royal Logistic Corps.

June 1995: Sean Benton is found dead with five gunshot wounds. The following month an inquest records a verdict of suicide.

November 1995: Cheryl James is found dead

December 1995: The inquest into Pte James’s death records an open verdict

September 2001: Geoff Gray is found dead

March 2002: An inquest into Pte Gray’s death records an open verdict

March 2002: James Collinson is found dead

Deepcut army barracks in Surrey which has been at the centre of allegations of bullying and abuse

April 2002: Surrey Police launch a joint investigation into the deaths of Pte Gray and Pte Collinson. The force later confirms it is also reviewing the deaths of Pte James and Pte Benton

June 2002: Families of the four soldiers call for a public inquiry 

September 2003: Surrey Police concludes there are no grounds for prosecutions over the deaths of the four young soldiers

May 2004: The government rejects calls for a public inquiry into the soldiers’ deaths

October 2004 New allegations emerge of gang rape, systematic bullying and sexual harassment at Deepcut emerge in a police report. The government announces a review of the allegation led by Nicholas Blake QC, but doesn’t order a full public inquiry.

March 2006: The inquest jury looking into the death of Pte Collinson returns an open verdict

March 2006: The Blake Review criticises Army training, citing ‘harassment, discrimination and oppressive behaviour’, but concludes that the deaths were probably self-inflicted.

May 2009: The government again rejects calls for a public inquiry

March 2011: A review by Devon and Cornwall Police found Surrey Police failed to investigate fully a potential suspect, known as the ‘unknown white male’, in the death of Pte James  

July 2014: High Court judges order a fresh inquest into the death of Pte James 

June 2016: The second inquest into Pte James’s death found the gunshot wound to her head was self-inflicted and intentional, and her death was suicide

October 2016: A High Court judge rules a fresh inquest can take place into the death of Pte Benton

November 2017: The family of Pte Gray win High Court action for a fresh inquest

January 2018: A fresh inquest begins at Woking Coroner’s Court into the death of Pte Benton

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