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Army sergeant denies physically abusing trainees at Deepcut barracks

Andrew Gavaghan told an inquest that he could be ‘nasty’, but that his ‘twin brother’ did the shouting.

Pte Sean Benton was found dead at the barracks with gunshot wounds to his chest in 1995 (PA)
Pte Sean Benton was found dead at the barracks with gunshot wounds to his chest in 1995 (PA)

A sergeant accused of bullying recruits at Deepcut barracks has denied physically abusing trainees, saying that when he aggressively gave orders his “twin brother” was doing the shouting.

The inquest into the death of Private Sean Benton has heard claims of bullying at the Surrey barracks, with allegations made against two of his instructors – Sergeant Andrew Gavaghan and Corporal Martin Holder.

On June 9 1995, Pte Benton was found with five bullets in his chest, shortly after he had been told he was to be discharged from the Army.

Giving evidence at Woking Coroner’s Court, Mr Gavaghan said he first became aware of the 20-year-old at the start of that year when he saw him crying because a friend had left the camp.

The court heard that Mr Gavaghan recognised him as a vulnerable recruit and that over the subsequent months the soldier would confide in him when he was feeling down.

The witness also said that he eventually became aware of Pte Benton’s history of self-harm.

He has been accused of losing control and shouting and hitting out at recruits, causing them to fear him.

Mr Gavaghan said hearing that he frightened some trainees, and that they found him unpredictable, had “disturbed” him.

He added that he thought some of the accounts of that time at Deepcut may have changed or been embellished over the years.

However, Mr Gavaghan said that when he got frustrated with how things were being run, when there was an influx of new recruits, he could shout and get aggressive.

He said: “The ‘twin brother’ happened very rarely and it was controlled and it was very much when the troop had a large influx of people, a lot of people changed around, and it happened when I had been away and I had come back and I noticed that standards had dropped.”

Saying that he could be “nasty”, he explained that after his outbursts he would say “that was my twin brother”.

“I would change so that people would know I was doing that for a reason.

“That is the brother gone now, I am now back to being me. And it was in humour.

“The whole story has changed over the years – how it happened.”

The court has heard from a number of witnesses who allege that Mr Gavaghan was both physically and verbally abusive towards recruits.

One recruit alleged that Mr Gavaghan beat him with a large traffic cone as he curled up in a ball in bed.

The witness has denied the incident happened.

On Thursday, Terri Lewis, who was a Lance Corporal at Deepcut at the time, said she saw Mr Gavaghan pull Pte Benton out of line and punch him repeatedly.

Asked by Bridget Dolan, counsel to the inquest, if this was true, Mr Gavaghan said: “No.” He also denied punching or kicking any of the trainees.

Describing the night before Pte Benton was found dead, Mr Gavaghan said he noticed that the recruit was down to be on reserve guard duty, but on finding out that his discharge had been applied for, thought he should not be.

Mr Gavaghan told the court that this was because he knew Pte Benton, of Hastings, East Sussex, did not want to be discharged and had undergone psychiatric assessment.

He also said it was because he did not think someone who had been discharged would have the right motivation to guard the camp.

Mr Gavaghan, who was unofficially in charge of welfare at the barracks, told the court he thought Pte Benton should not have been on guard duty with a weapon because he may have been at risk of self harm.

Paul Greaney QC, representing the Benton family, suggested to Mr Gavaghan that he should have made all those on guard aware the recruit was not to have access to a gun.

The witness said he did all he could to prevent the risk by taking him off guard duty.

Mr Greaney said: “The failure to prevent him accessing the weapon was a serious failure on your part and others.”

Mr Gavaghan said: “I don’t accept that.”

Mr Greaney continued: “But if that simple instruction had been given he would not have got the gun with which he killed himself. You disagree?”

The witness replied: “Yes. There is nobody that knew what was going to happen.”

Mr Gavaghan’s evidence will resume at 10.30am on Monday.

Press Association

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