Pte Geoff Gray

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PA

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Pte Geoff Gray’s parents had claimed someone else killed their son

The death of a teenage recruit shot dead at Deepcut barracks 18 years ago was a suicide, a coroner has ruled after a new inquest.

Pte Geoff Gray, 17 – one of four soldiers to die at the Surrey base between 1995 and 2002 – was found with two gunshot wounds to his head.

His parents had claimed another person had pulled the trigger.

Delivering his conclusions at Woking Coroner’s Court, Judge Coroner Peter Rook QC said Pte Gray killed himself.

The inquest heard there was no suggestion Pte Gray was ever the victim of mistreatment or bullying at Deepcut, and had been happy and “Army barmy” from a young age.

But the coroner said he created an opportunity to be alone with the rifle.

He said: “I am sure that when Geoff administered the shots himself he intended to end his life.”

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Photographs were taken in 2002 showing the view along the perimeter fence line looking towards the tree under which Geoff was found

The coroner also said he had not sought to explain why Pte Gray fired the rifle, but he accepted expert evidence that apparently inexplicable suicides can occur “out of the blue”.

However, had Pte Gray not been on guard duty that night with access to a firearm and the opportunity to use it out of the sight of others, he might well have never taken his own life, the coroner said.

The original inquest into the death of Pte Gray, who was originally from Seaham, County Durham, ended with an open verdict in 2002.

Who were the Deepcut four?

A second hearing was ordered after Pte Gray’s family argued fresh evidence had come to light, but their application for a jury inquest was rejected.

Second inquests were also held into Pte Cheryl James and Pte Sean Benton who died prior to Pte Gray.

They concluded the recruits had killed themselves, after evidence was heard about bullying and a lack of care at the barracks.

Judge Rook said the Ministry of Defence had failed to learn from their deaths, and, by 2001 had still not taken action to avoid the need for Phase 2 trainees to perform guard duty.

The coroner said: “No Phase 2 trainee should have been on unsupervised armed guard duty in 2001.

“The problem has now been addressed. In Geoff’s case, it was too late.”

  • 20-year-old Pte Sean Benton, from Hastings, was the first to be found dead in June 1995

  • 18-year-old Pte Cheryl James, from Llangollen was found with a bullet wound to her forehead in November 1995

  • 17-year-old Pte Geoff Gray, from Seaham, was found with two gunshot wounds to his head in 2001

  • 17-year-old Pte James Collinson, from Perth, was found with a single gunshot wound through his chin while on guard duty in 2002

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