Cheryl James Deepcut death: Military police 'made up mind'

Pte Cheryl James
Image caption Pte Cheryl James was found dead with a bullet wound to the head

Military police "made up their mind" that the death of a teenage soldier at Deepcut barracks was suicide when her body was found, an inquest has heard.

Pte Cheryl James was found dead from a bullet wound to her head at the Surrey barracks in 1995.

Former staff sergeant Terence McEleavey said he raised concerns about the suicide theory but was told to keep quiet and think about "pension time".

He said the area around the body was not preserved as it should have been.

The 18-year-old from Llangollen in Denbighshire was one of four recruits to die at the base in seven years.

Mr McEleavey told the hearing in Woking he was asked to identify Pte James's body, which was just inside the tree line close to one of the camp's entry gates and had been covered by a groundsheet.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Police investigated the Deepcut deaths in 2002

"I was a bit peeved with it really," he said. "There was too much activity around there."

Mr McEleavey said: "They found a (bullet) case on the left-hand side of the body. It was as if they'd already made up their mind that it was a suicide and they were just walking around."

But describing how he saw Pte James's body lying face down with a gun nearby, he added: "It just struck me as odd that the weapon was away from the body.

"My initial thoughts were that there's no way she would have taken her own life.

"She wasn't depressed or anything like that. She was just her normal, happy self."

He said she had been excited about getting a posting to Germany.

He also said the position of the gun later stuck in his mind and he added: "It was away from the body as if it was laid there."

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

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

Mr McEleavey told the inquest senior officers directed him on how to answer in interviews and he was told that if he did not have any positive evidence he should keep it to himself.

"It was along the lines of, 'you're coming to the end of your career, think about pension time'," he said.

A former GP working at Deepcut told the inquest there were "all sorts" of welfare issues among recruits and an increasing number of young female soldiers came to her surgery for the morning-after pill or abortions.

But Dr Alexandra McClenahan said Pte James appeared to have no mental health problems or related concerns.

"She struck me as a lovely, bubbly girl and was obviously keen to get posted out of Deepcut," she said.

The first inquest into Pte James's death in December 1995 recorded an open verdict. This second inquest was ordered after High Court judges quashed the original findings.

The hearing continues.

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