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3 Oct 2014
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Concern over soldiers deaths
Report by Andrew Hosken

The Today programme has discovered that the Army has destroyed some of the evidence requested by detectives investigating four fatal shootings at the Deepcut Barracks in Surrey. The Army says that clothes and documents were only destroyed when all civilian and military investigations were complete and that there could be no way of knowing that the police were to re-open some inquiries.

But parents of those who died in the incidents are angry.

Within 24 hours of talking to his mother, Jim Collinson, a 17 year old Army recruit was dead. He died from a single bullet while on guard duty at Deepcut Barracks in Surrey on March 23rd.

According to his parents he was happy, with no history of depression. His mother Yvonne saw him the evening before he died. "He was quite happy, joking around and planning to come for the weekend to stay with his Dad," she said.

The inquest into his death has not yet been held but his father James Collinson says someone in the Army has already suggested that his son killed himself .

"I don't think that my son did take his own life. I think that there's someone in this camp who has been taking these soldiers' lives away from them," he said.

The Army says that in a few cases some personnel may have suggested suicide as a reason to relatives and the press. But their official position is that only the coroner can decide how someone has died.

In the four shooting-related deaths at Deepcut since 1995 there has only been one suicide ruling. Two have been open verdicts and there has yet to be a decision in the Collinson case.

Surrey detectives are again investigating all four cases at Deepcut. But the Today programme has discovered that some of the clothes and documents asked for by the police to help with the inquiry have been destroyed by the Army.

An Army spokesman said that if true, it would be because once all civilian and army investigations were complete there would be no further need for the associated clothing and documents. He added that it would be normal for such material to be disposed of and that it would not have been done to obstruct any police inquiry.

The disposal of potential evidence by the Army in those cases where it believed all inquiries were complete has fuelled the suspicion among parents that the whole truth is not being told.

On September 17 last year, he said, Geoff Gray also died on guard duty near the same spot where soldiers discovered the body of James Collinson. It appeared that Private Gray had shot himself twice in the head with an automatic rifle. After hearing shots at night, sentries had searched the small compound several times before finding the body. His father - also called Geoff - finds this hard to understand.

"We were told at Geoff's funeral that Geoff's body was not there. We didn't realise what the soldier was saying until the inquest . What he was referring to was that Geoff's body was not there when they searched for him. On the fifth occasion they found him without the aid of a torch and he was only 30 centimetres away from the fence".

He added: "I believe someone has murdered my son. I have no reason for that obviously. I don't know who has done . But the more that comes out about Geoff's case - the powder burns on his face and the angle of the gun that killed him he just couldn't have killed himself. Someone has murdered my son."

Since 1994, British forces have lost 99 people through shooting incidents. Of these, 33 are described as suicides and 63 "non-combat-related fatalities".

Perhaps the most extraordinary death was the shooting of a 17 year old recruit at Dramadd Barracks in Northern Ireland. Paul Cochran was talking to his father, Bill Cochran, on a mobile phone when he either shot himself or was shot by someone else, as his father believes. No inquest has yet been held and the Army is still investigating.

Since 1995, 23 people have died in differing circumstances at Catterick Barracks in Yorkshire. A 17 year old, Private Richard Robertson, died in 1995 while out on night patrol after receiving a fatal gun shot to the head. Although his mother Linda does not believe he died in suspicious circumstances, she does think there have been too many deaths in army barracks.

"It shouldn't happen in peace time and training," she said. "They're not schoolboys one day and men the next. Teenagers will be teenagers".

The Army insists that when potential evidence was destroyed it could not have known that detectives would re-open inquiries. A spokesman said the Army had co-operated fully with the police and would continue to do so.

Cheryl James
Listen - Andrew Hosken's special investigation into soldiers' deaths at Deep Cut barracks in Surrey
James Collinson
Geoff Gray
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