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Surrey Police accept Deepcut probe 'mistakes' over Cheryl James' death

Published 03/06/2016

The Royal Way Gate where Private Cheryl James was on guard duty on the morning of her death (Ministry of Defence Police/PA)
The Royal Way Gate where Private Cheryl James was on guard duty on the morning of her death (Ministry of Defence Police/PA)

Surrey Police said they accepted "mistakes were made" in the original investigation into Cheryl James' death at Deepcut.

But they insisted her death has now been the subject of a thorough investigation.

And as Detective superintendent Adam Hibbert, from Surrey Police, delivered the prepared statement on the steps outside Woking Coroner's Court he was met with a shout of "liar".

DSI Hibbert said: "The death of Ms James has been a tragic loss of a young woman's life, and we recognise that this has been compounded for her family and friends as a result of the way her death was subsequently investigated.

"Surrey Police has long accepted that mistakes were made in this investigation. The force should have maintained primacy for it, and has previously apologised to the family for those errors.

"Today we would like to reiterate those apologies."

Backing the coroner's investigation, he added: "We know that Ms James' family have long since been seeking answers to the circumstances surrounding her death.

"The evidence has now been thoroughly examined throughout the new inquest today, and our thoughts are with Ms James' family and her friends. We hope they can take time to reflect upon the coroner's verdict.

"We are also acutely aware that today's findings will be relevant to the families of the other three young soldiers who died in Deepcut barracks between 1995 and 2002.

"I would like to take this opportunity reassure them that we will fully support any need for disclosure for any future potential coronial processes."

But as he walked away from the court steps there was a shout of "liars".

Pte James' family were scathing of the police approach to the inquest, saying it appeared they had tried to "unashamedly pursue a suicide verdict".

Mr James said: "My wife and I were made to feel as though we were on trial and we felt as though our family was undermined at every opportunity."

He added: "Despite Surrey Police's best efforts, the very serious shortcomings in their investigation into Cheryl's death were revealed.

"Without conducting any investigation at all, in 1995 Surrey Police abandoned the scene of Cheryl's death within 40 minutes of their arrival and agreed that the Military Police should be permitted to investigate it for themselves.

"As a result, the military were allowed to investigate the matter for themselves and they failed to take even the most basic steps to preserve the scene, retain forensic evidence or conduct any form of independent inquiry into a sudden death.

"These very profound failures in many ways explain why we are still here 20 years later."

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