Surrey

Deepcut recruit Cheryl James 'ordered to soldier's room'

Pte Cheryl James Image copyright Cheryl James's family
Image caption Pte Cheryl James died at Deepcut Barracks in Surrey in 1995

A teenage recruit found dead at an Army barracks told a fellow soldier she had been ordered to meet another private in his room, her inquest has heard.

Mark Beards said Pte Cheryl James told him a sergeant had told her to do it, and while she never mentioned the word, Mr Beards assumed it was for sex.

He was accused in court of lying, but he said he was prepared to take a test to prove he was not.

Pte James, 18, of Llangollen, was found shot dead at Deepcut barracks in 1995.

She was one of four recruits to die in shootings at the Surrey Army base in a seven-year period.

'Don't get involved'

Mr Beards told Surrey Coroner's Court in Woking that Pte James had told him the night before she died that she had been told to go to a room to meet his friend, Pte Ian Atkinson, known as Aki.

"She said, 'I've got to do it. Gav (Sgt Andrew Gavaghan) ordered it'," he said.

Mr Beards said he told Pte James she did not have to do anything she did not want to do, but she had replied: "Don't get involved. You'll get hurt."

Image copyright James family
Image caption Pte James told a friend it would be "really easy" to shoot yourself, the inquest heard

"The next morning she was dead," he said.

Mr Beards said he had not given police full details because he believed it would get back to Sgt Gavaghan, who he understood was liaison officer for Surrey Police.

But counsel for both the police and the Ministry of Defence accused him of inventing the story.

'Liar and fantasist'

John Beggs QC, representing Surrey Police, said: "You are someone who lies at the drop of a hat."

Nicholas Moss, for the Ministry of Defence, told him: "You are a liar, a fantasist and probably a bit of both."

And another MoD lawyer, Francesca Whitelaw, said: "You are the one who made the leap that she was ordered to have sex.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Pte James was one of four recruits to die at the Deepcut barracks in a seven-year period

"I suggest to you it is the stuff of utter fantasy, full of inaccuracies, unreliable and a complete fabrication."

Mr Beards admitted he had changed his accounts over the years since Pte James's death but said he was now telling the truth and would be prepared to take a lie-detector test.

'Asked for sex'

The inquest heard that earlier the same evening Pte James had asked another soldier, in front of her boyfriend, Pte Paul Wilkinson, for sex.

Andrew Carter said: "I was quite shocked and surprised, and Paul was quite agitated."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Privates Benton, James, Gray and Collinson all died at Deepcut between 1995 and 2002

Who were the Deepcut four? Background to the deaths and timeline of events

A friend told the court that on a previous occasion when she had been drinking, Pte James had spoken about how it would be "really easy to shoot yourself".

Yvonne Sneddon said her friend had made the "odd" remark a few months after another recruit, Pte Sean Benton, had been found shot dead at the Surrey barracks.

"It sent a chill through me," Ms Sneddon said in a statement.

The inquest continues.

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