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Summary

  1. Coroner concludes Pte Cheryl James' death at the Deepcut barracks in Surrey in 1995 was suicide
  2. Bullet wound to the head 'was self-inflicted'
  3. Army apologises for failings at Deepcut in 1995
  4. Coroner highlights overwhelming evidence of a "sexualised" atmosphere at Deepcut
  5. Pte James was one of four young recruits who died at Deepcut between 1995 and 2002
  6. Updates on Friday 3 June 2016

Live Reporting

By Tanya Gupta

All times stated are UK

Get involved

Good night

Tanya Gupta

That's all from the Deepcut inquest live page and the suicide of teenage Army recruit Pte Cheryl James. 

For more reaction and analysis see our continuing coverage throughout the evening. And you can follow development on Twitter by using #Deepcut.

'Sad experiences overcome'

des james
PA

We recognise that Cheryl, like so many teenagers, struggled in certain aspects of her life and had suffered some sad experiences. But she had overcome these and was doing well

Des JamesPte Cheryl James' father

'Power-hungry culture' at Deepcut

They broke you down but they didn't know how to rebuild you. A lot of them were, you know, power hungry.

Michelle ClarkTrainee alongside Pte James

Army 'truly sorry'

john donnelly
PA

I want to repeat the apology that I gave to the coroner and to Mr and Mrs James at the start of this inquest. We are truly sorry for the low levels of supervision that we provided for the trainees at Deepcut in 1995, and for the policies that were applied to using trainees for guard duties, and that we took too long to recognise and rectify the situation.

Brig John Donnelly

Deepcut barracks site set for housing development

The Ministry of Defence announced in 2008 that Deepcut barracks would close.

Barracks
PA

Housing development plans were later put forward for the site.

'Final chapter'

June Kelly

BBC Home Affairs correspondent

Here is a look at some of the big questions the Deepcut inquest faced.

'Twenty years too late'

This day has come 20 years too late. There should have been an independent police investigation right from the start. The Army should have been open about life on that camp from day one.

Emma NortonLawyer for Liberty and solicitor for Mr and Mrs James

'Serious and profound failures'

Des James has said the family do not believe the evidence led to this verdict.

DES JAMES
BBC

We are deeply saddened by the coroner's conclusions, having sat through all the evidence ourselves, listened carefully to every word, read every statement and re-read every testimony. In short it's our opinion that it did not lead to this verdict... Deepcut was a toxic and horrible environment for a young woman and we have no doubt that this would have had a terrible impact on those that were required to live there."

Des JamesPte Cheryl James' father

Armed Forces 'sex culture'

Human rights organisation Liberty is calling for action following the conclusion.

View more on twitter

Army to study conclusions

BBC News Channel

Brig John Donnelly, head of Army personal services, is speaking outside the court.

BRIG JOHN DONNELLY
BBC

He has paid tribute to Pte James's father for his "fortitude and generosity", and said the Army had made profound changes since 1995 but it was a continuous process.

The inquest conclusions would be studied carefully, he added.

'Should not have been on armed guard duty alone'

Paul Heaney

BBC News reporter

The coroner Brian Barker QC said Pte James should not have been on armed guard duty alone.

Coroner Brian Barker QC
Getty Images

But he also said a report into future deaths was not required because the training policies and practices in the Army have changed significantly.    

Father 'saddened'

BBC News Channel

Cheryl James' father Des James is speaking outside the court. He has said he is "deeply saddened by the verdict."

des james
BBC

He has described the barracks as "a toxic environment."  

'A dangerous situation'

The coroner has said Pte James's morale may have been lowered by the general regime and she had written of her wish to leave the Army.

deepcut
Getty Images

But he said there was "no basis to establish that Ms James's disillusionment with the Army or any dislike of the Deepcut regime was, on the balance of probabilities, such as to cause her to wish to die".

He said the Deepcut system had created a dangerous situation and provided the opportunity to take her life.

'Failure within wider Army context'

Ms James should not have been on armed guard duty alone. Moreover, the failure sits within the wider context of the Army at the time neither recognising, nor taking any steps to reduce, the potential risk of trainees using their service weapons against themselves

Coroner Brian Barker QC

Formal inquest conclusion

findings
surrey coroner's court

Ms Cheryl James died as a result of suicide. The circumstances were that: Ms James had been posted as a lone female armed guard contrary to Army policy; the risk of self-harm to trainees during lone armed guard duty had not been adequately recognised nor had adequate steps been taken to reduce that risk.

Coroner Brian Barker QC

'A short, shining life'

Paul Heaney

BBC News reporter

The coroner has said Pte James had "a short, shining life" and her legacy is a "complete re-evaluation' of how the army trains its soldiers".

Cheryl James
James family

Suicide threshold clarified

Paul Heaney

BBC News reporter

Some clarification on the suicide discussion from earlier.

The coroner did not reject suicide but was discussing the legal threshold for it.  

Death was suicide

Paul Heaney

BBC News reporter

The coroner has said Pte James shot herself with a high-velocity rifle. She died as a result of suicide.

Mr Barker has formally recorded a suicide verdict.

Intended to die

Daniel De Simone

BBC Home Affairs producer

The coroner has said Pte James inflicted the fatal shot intending to die.

Evidence rules not suicide

Paul Heaney

BBC News reporter

The evidence does not meet the legal threshold of suicide, the coroner rules, but neither was it an accident.  

Not an accident

Daniel De Simone

BBC Home Affairs producer

The coroner has also said it was an intentional discharge and not an accident.

There was no evidence of an attacker or of any attack in Pte James's death.  

Self-inflicted wound

Paul Heaney

BBC News reporter

The coroner has said Pte James died from a self-inflicted wound.

"The conclusion is self infliction" says Brian Barker QC about Cheryl James' death. BUT he has rejected suicide.  

Death not staged

Paul Heaney

BBC News reporter

Brian Barker said there is no evidence that any other SA80 rifle was taken from the armoury. 

There is no evidence that this death was staged.  

'Soot on her face'

Daniel De Simone

BBC Home Affairs producer

Brian Barker QC says the “compelling evidence" available is that the fatal shot was "contact or near contact".

The coroner says “there was soot on Ms James’s face”, meaning sooty gunshot residue. 

Coroner finds that Ms James left hand was in contact with the rifle muzzle when it was fired.

Inquest resuming

The break is over and the inquest conclusions are continuing.

Final conclusions imminent

We're on another short break, but the final part of the conclusions are to follow.

Not unlawful killing

When I ask myself if there is sufficient evidence with which I can properly reach a conclusion of unlawful killing the only answer I have is 'no'.

Coroner Brian Barker QC

Photos show gate where Pte James was on duty

Tanya Gupta

Two photographs released by the coroner showed the Royal Way Gate at the barracks where Pte James was on guard duty on the morning of her death.

Photograph taken in 1995 of the exterior of the camp, facing towards the barracks
MOD Police
Photograph taken in 1995 showing the view from inside the camp
MOD Police

The photographs, from the Ministry of Defence Police, were taken in 1995.

Trainees describe barracks' 'menacing atmosphere'

June Kelly

BBC Home Affairs correspondent

In a BBC Two documentary, former trainee soldiers have spoken publicly about their experiences at the base. They have described a menacing atmosphere at the barracks, which was the setting for physical, sexual and racial abuse. 

Soldiers of the Royal Logistics Corps at Deepcut in 2005
Getty Images

Like Cheryl James, they were there in the mid-90s.

My report looks at how Deepcut became synonymous with bullying, brutality and sexual harassment.

Coroner: 'Unanswered questions fuelled speculation'

After Pte James's death, there was no forensic post-mortem examination, no detailed record of the presence or absence of gunshot residue, and bullet fragments were not preserved, coroner Brian Barker said.

Her clothes were burned and interviews with those at the barracks were inadequate, he said.

"This has left unanswered questions which understandably fuelled speculation as to how Ms James died," he said.

Death scene 'not preserved'

Earlier, the coroner said Army officers and the emergency services were quick to assume Pte James's death was suicide.

He said some of those who examined the scene agreed there should have been a fuller examination.

"Although some steps were taken to limit disturbance at the scene, it was not treated as a scene of crime might be. It was not preserved," he said.

"Almost from the outset the impression from the Army and the emergency services was that this was a self-inflicted injury." 

'No evidence of unlawful killing'

The coroner has said there is no evidence Pte Cheryl James was unlawfully killed.

MP calls for re-examination of 'abuse' dossier

Calls were made this week for a dossier of abuse allegations at Deepcut to be re-examined as the inquest approached its conclusion.  

Madeleine Moon MP
PA

Bridgend MP Madeleine Moon, a member of the Commons Defence Select Committee, told Tuesday's Week In Week Out programme she wanted the defence secretary to ask the Army and Surrey Police what happened to soldiers who were accused by other recruits of rape, sexual and physical assaults and bullying at the base between 1995 and 2002.  

'We cannot know', inquest told

On the day the coroner retired to consider his verdict, Alison Foster QC, representing Pte James's family, said there was "no reliable foundation" for a finding that the wound was self-inflicted.

Graphic
BBC

But she said the family were reconciled to the possibility of an open conclusion.

She said the precise circumstances of Pte James's death could not be known.

Shot soldier 'couldn't be that girl'

During the inquest, witnesses described the recruit's "bubbly and happy" demeanour on the day she died.

Graphic
BBC

Civilian Army driver John Rowney, a former military policeman drove into the barracks to collect an officer and exchanged a joke with her.

Driving back minutes later, he found the gates shut and was told a soldier had been found shot. He said: "I just remember thinking it can't be that girl."

Shooting comments 'dismissed as banter'

Earlier, we heard how Pte James had talked about shooting herself, but her friends thought it was just "banter".

Photograph of Pte James held by her father Des James
PA

The inquest heard the recruit had chatted to a friend about the death of Pte Sean Benton which happened five months previously, and said it would be "really easy to shoot yourself".

On another occasion, she told an electrician the only way to get out of the Army would be to "put a gun to your head", but those who were with her took it as a joke.

'No wrong verdict' for solider's father

Pte Cheryl James's father Des James, of Llanymynech, Powys, was among the first witnesses at the inquest.

Des James with Cheryl James
James family

At the time, he said: "There's no wrong verdict for me in this."

And he said when the Army told him in 1995 his daughter had killed herself, he initially accepted its version of events because he was brought up to believe organisations like the armed services "were on your side".

Family's long fight for answers

Pte Cheryl James's family have fought for answers since her death in 1995.

Cheryl James
James family

When the new inquest was ordered, her parents Des and Doreen James said they were "delighted" to have a fresh inquest.

But they added: "A meaningful inquiry into Cheryl's death is almost 20 years late."

'We asked for truth' says mother of fellow Deepcut soldier

While the inquest is adjourned, here are some more comments from Diane Gray, mother of Pte Geoff Gray, another of the four soldiers who died.

She said: "We should have known this from the very beginning, what happened to the children.

"All we asked for was the truth of what happened in the very beginning."

Short break

The coroner has adjourned for 30 minutes. He is delivering his conclusion in this second inquest into the death of Pte Cheryl James. 

Subjects covered so far have included her state of mind, the coroner's view of sex assault claims made during the inquest, and issues about the welfare of soldiers at the base.