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Three ways Cheryl could have been murdered

Barry Keevins photo
Barry KeevinsLondon
Three ways Cheryl could have been murdered
Deepcut suspects and scenarios described by police

Police identified three different scenarios which described how army recruit Cheryl James could have been murdered.

At least two suspects were singled out who were seen with Cheryl before her body was found.

Private James was on guard duty at the entrance to the officers mess at the Princess Royal Barracks near Deepcut on Monday morning, November 27, 1995.

Cheryl was guarding an entrance known as the Royal Way Gate.

This gate was only in use to allow officers and staff coming from the Officers’ Mess, married quarters or other locations to the north of the barracks to enter in the morning, return at lunch time and go home in the evening.

A few minutes before eight thirty, the gate was reported as unmanned and soon after Cheryl’s body was discovered with a single gunshot wound to the head.

A post-mortem conducted at 10.30 the next day established cause of death as “gunshot wound to the head”.

First Scenario

In the first scenario which examined the possibility Cheryl's death was at the hands of somebody else and not her own, investigators identified a suspect.

A man, who had previously given two witness statements was challenged about his movements while giving a third.

A review of the handling of the case named this man as somebody who needed to be re-interviewed to either eliminate or implicate him in the inquiry.

This scenario highlighted the sighting of an unidentified man with Cheryl before her death.

An internal review by Surrey police recommended he be designated as a suspect.

Second Scenario

The second scenario details an unknown male seen by a witness with Cheryl before her death as the killer.

This male was never found or interviewed.

A review of the investigation criticised insufficient investigatory work in trying to identify the man who could potentially have been a suspect.

Third Scenario

The last of three scenarios identifies a man dressed in combats as Cheryl's killer.

This man was seen with Cheryl before she died by another witness.

It was not established if the man in combats was, in fact, one of the other men seen by witnesses at the gate with Cheryl.

He was never traced or interviewed despite police identifying him as significant.

Operation Stanza

Cheryl was one of four young recruits found dead from gunshot wounds at the barracks between 1995 and 2002.

As a result of pressure from all four Deepcut families, the Chief Constable requested a focused review of certain aspects of the Surrey Police investigation in September 2003.

Devon and Cornwall police delivered their conclusions, including the three scenarios, in August 2005.

The review, titled Operation Stanza, introduced the idea of mindset into the understanding of how the investigations into all four deaths were handled.

During Stanza, senior Surrey police officers admitted their inquiry into the deaths at Deepcut was not a traditional investigation.

Surrey police said they treated their investigation more like a coroners investigation and never as a murder inquiry, despite identifying the three scenarios in which Cheryl was killed by somebody else.

Nobody was ever designated a suspect or identified as somebody who needed to be eliminated from the inquiry.

The Deepcut Review

Operation Stanza was a review of the work already done by Surrey police and was not set up to discover any new evidence.

Devon and Cornwall did not offer any new lines of inquiry to follow up and Surrey police took this as vindication of their position and decided their investigation was closed.

The Deepcut Review carried out by Nicholas Blake QC was also a re-examination of existing evidence.

Blake agreed since there was no new evidence and no suggested lines of inquiry, Stanza closed the cases for Surrey police.

He noted: "If the Devon and Cornwall Review had concluded that Surrey Police’s investigations were incomplete or had been so deficiently performed that it needed to start again, this would have had some serious impact on this Review and its ability to fulfil its terms of reference.

"This is not the case.

"The Devon and Cornwall Review did not suggest that any apparent line of enquiry relevant to how any of the four soldiers died at Deepcut was missed or not diligently pursued.

"Their Report did consider that Surrey Police’s investigations did not always follow the criteria for investigating possible homicides, established by the Murder Investigation Manual and recognised as best practice, and that no or, insufficient, reasons for any divergence were identified."

Verdict Quashed

The new inquest into Cheryl's death was granted after judges ruled there had been an insufficiency of inquiry at the first hearing and the discovery of new facts.

Mr Justice Mitting and Judge Peter Thornton QC quashed the open verdict.

Judge Thornton said the discovery of new facts or evidence made a fresh investigation including a fresh inquest necessary or desirable in the interests of justice.

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