Surrey

Cheryl James inquest: Deepcut recruits 'told to keep mouths shut'

Pte Cheryl James
Image caption Pte Cheryl James was one of four recruits to die at Deepcut barracks between 1995 and 2002

Female recruits at Deepcut barracks were told to "keep their mouths shut" after the body of a young soldier was found, an inquest has heard.

Pte Cheryl James, 18, was found with a fatal bullet wound in 1995 and was one of four recruits to die at the Surrey Army training camp in seven years.

Claire Barnett said a group had gathered in a communal room to comfort each other following Pte James's death.

Ms Barnett said the women were told not to talk to the police or the media.

Sgt Andrew Gavaghan strolled in as if nothing had happened, she said.

"He just waltzed in, strolled over to the window and looked out of the window with his hands behind his back," she told the inquest into the death of Pte James, who was from Llangollen in Denbighshire.

'Something wrong'

"We all came together outside and were basically told 'keep your mouths shut. Don't speak to anyone'. Words to that effect," she said.

"We weren't allowed off camp and no-one was allowed on."

The inquest in Woking has previously heard claims that Sgt Gavaghan ordered Pte James to have sex with another soldier the night before she died.

Ms Barnett told the inquest she spoke briefly to Pte James on the morning of her death.

"I saw in her eyes that something was wrong. I didn't get a chance to press it," she said.

"It was two or three seconds, then it was gone."

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

Pte James's roommate Teresa Sanderson said they were "petrified" of Sgt Gavaghan and claimed he spied on female recruits while they were on guard duty.

She said Pte James was "adamant" she did not want to do guard duty on her own on the day of her death.

Asked by Katherine Hardcastle, representing Pte James's family, what she found difficult about Deepcut barracks, Ms Sanderson replied: "The routine. The temperament of people in charge. The unpredictability of it. We never knew what we were doing.

"The tension. The intentions of current individuals. We were petrified of Sgt Gavaghan. He watched us.

"Gavaghan was ex-guardsman. He was very military orientated. He made it very clear he didn't like female recruits. He didn't think we were up to the job."

'Thrown down stairs'

Ms Sanderson said she recalled one occasion when a member of training staff "tried it on" with Pte James.

She thought Pte James had suspected she was pregnant "a couple of times".

The pair had fallen out a few weeks before her death and Pte James had thrown her down some stairs during a fight, Ms Sanderson said.

Francesca Whitelaw, representing Sgt Gavaghan, said it was not disputed that he had "divided opinion" at the barracks but stories about him had become "Army legend".

Ms Whitelaw said Sgt Gavaghan had caught a soldier sleeping on guard duty which led to the rumour about spying on women.

The inquest continues.

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

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