A TEENAGE soldier shot dead at an army barracks more than 20 years ago may have been sexually abused, a coroner said at an inquest yesterday.
Brian Barker QC said new evidence that emerged last month suggests that senior officers may have sexually exploited 18-year-old Private Cheryl James before she died in 1995.
The young woman from north Wales was found with a gunshot wound between her right eye and nose at the Deepcut Barracks in Surrey.
Pvt James — who was undergoing initial training — was one of four recruits that died between 1995 and 2002 at the barracks blighted by abuse and bullying allegations.
Sean Benton, James Collinson and Geoff Gray also died from gunshot wounds.
Mr Barker told Woking coroner’s court that a seven-week inquest — with more than 100 witnesses — would investigate sexual assault allegations in Pvt James’s case but will not consider whether there was “a wider culture of sexual abuse.”
The inquest will address whether there were “shortcomings” with barracks policies on sexual behaviour, supervision of young women, drugs, alcohol and accommodation.
Pvt James’s father Des said he wanted “justice” for all the soldiers who had died.
“We know the culture at the camp was out of control. There was a drug and alcohol culture,” he said.
“The bottom line is a culture was created at the camp which contributed to the death of four people.”
At least 10 witnesses have come forward with allegations of a culture of sexual exploitation at Deepcut, according to human rights organisation Liberty, which is representing the family.