Surrey

Deepcut inquest: Ex-sergeant denies 'soldier sex order'

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

A former troop sergeant did not order a young recruit who died at Deepcut barracks in Surrey to meet a fellow soldier for sex, an inquest heard.

The hearing into the death of Pte Cheryl James has previously heard from Pte Mark Beards that former sergeant Andrew Gavaghan gave the order.

But, Mr Gavaghan told the inquest it did not happen because he did not meet Pte James until the morning she died.

She was found found dead with a bullet wound to the head on 27 November 1995.

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

'Sex discouraged'

The inquest at Woking Coroner's Court heard of a culture of alcohol and sex at the barracks.

Inquest counsel Bridget Dolan said a litter sweep of the grounds found 800 condoms in a year.

Mr Gavaghan said recruits were told sex was "discouraged" and against the rules but it was "difficult to police".

"I'm not saying it was not going on but it was rare for people to be caught," he added.

Image copyright MOD Police
Image caption The body of Pte Cheryl James was found in woods near the gate of Deepcut barracks

On the claim he ordered Pte James to have sex with another soldier, he said there was "no truth whatsoever" to the accusation and he was shocked and hurt when he heard about it.

He said the only time he recalled speaking to her was on the morning of her death when she asked him for his ID as he walked into the barracks.

'Caring and supportive'

He added Pte James had not known whether to call him "sir" or "sergeant" and told the hearing they did not know each other.

Mr Gavaghan, who left the Army in 2003, denied bullying her and shouting at her so strongly he made her cry.

He said his natural manner was to be "caring and supportive" but accepted he sometimes had to shout.

Cross-examined by Francesca Whitelaw, who is representing Mr Gavaghan, the former sergeant said: "I think that over time rumours have become myths and in the distance they have become exaggerated."

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

Earlier, it was suggested former sergeant Adrian Stevens "fancied" Pte James but picked on her when she did not respond.

Peter Mant, representing Pte James's family, asked Mr Stevens: "You fancied Cheryl. You gave her all the good jobs and, when she did not respond, you started picking on her - that is the truth, isn't it?"

Mr Stevens, who had described the teenage recruit as "very bubbly" and a "pretty girl", replied "no", at Woking Coroner's Court.

He denied giving extra guard duty as punishment to Pte James, and he denied such a practice was imposed on recruits.

Mr Stevens, who left the Army in March 2005, said he was shocked and surprised by her death.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Pte James's body was found near the perimeter fence

A 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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