Tragic soldier Private Cheryl James 'sexually harassed'
A female soldier was left "shaken" after a sergeant locked her in a room to "try to have his way with her" weeks before her death, her best friend told an inquest.
Private Cheryl James was sexually pursued by the more senior officer while being punished for being caught in a male accommodation block during a training course, Woking Coroners Court heard.
The incident occurred less than a fortnight before the 18-year-old was found dead from a bullet wound at Deepcut barracks in Surrey in 1995. Pte James was one of four soldiers who died there over a seven-year-period. A new inquest into her death was told evidence had shown she may not have killed herself.
Jane Worboys, who joined the Army in the same cohort as Pte James, told the inquest she was a "bubbly, popular" woman who told Ms Worboys she had been targeted by a sergeant while on a three-day restricted privileges punishment.
Ms Worboys said: "She told me he had locked the door and was chasing her around the desk. I think she was upset and shaken. We talked it through but we didn't know how to get anything done."
The inquest heard that there was a "toxic" environment at Deepcut barracks, where male instructors sexually pursued young recruits. Ms Worboys told the inquest that she and Pte James deliberately failed a shooting test so they could avoid going to a camp at which instructors planned to lead drinking games. The inquest also heard another non-commissioned officer "took a shine" to Pte James and gave her "good jobs".
Ms Worboys described Pte James as one of her "closest friends", saying she had confided in her about her cousin's suicide three years before and that she had allegedly been raped when she was 14.
She told the inquest: "I agree she did have a lot on her plate but I don't believe that led her to take her own life."
The inquest continues.