Decision due into scope of fresh inquest into Deepcut death

The scope of a fresh inquest into the death of a young soldier at the Deepcut barracks is expected to be decided later today following a long campaign by his family for answers.

Friday, 16th June 2017, 11:38 am
Updated Wednesday, 21st June 2017, 2:19 pm

Private Sean Benton, 20, from Hastings, East Sussex, was found with five bullets in his chest in June 1995 shortly after he had been told he was to be discharged from the Army.

He was the first of four young soldiers to die of gunshot wounds at the Surrey barracks between 1995 and 2002.

Geoff Gray

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Among them was Private Geoff Gray, from Seaham. The 17-year-old was found with two gunshot wounds to his head in 2001 while on guard duty at the barracks.

His parents have previously said they hope a fresh inquest into Pte Benton's death would pave the way for them to get more answers of their own.

A Royal Military Police investigation led to an initial inquest finding of suicide even though no evidence was given about his experiences at Deepcut.

In the years since, his family have been led to believe he endured vicious and prolonged physical and psychological bullying, human rights group Liberty has said.

Geoff Gray

Mr Benton's sister Tracy Lewis and his twin brother Tony Benton, represented by Liberty, applied for a second inquest in July 2015 which was granted last year.

His mother, Linda Benton, who fought for access to evidence about the circumstances of her son's death, died in 2015.

Coroner Peter Rook QC will hold a first pre-inquest review at the Old Bailey on Friday to examine the scope of the fresh inquest and whether a jury should be called.

Before the hearing, Ms Lewis said: "It's been 22 years since we lost Sean, so it's bittersweet that we are only now starting to get some answers about what he went through at Deepcut barracks.

"It's a real tragedy that our parents are no longer with us after they fought so long, and it's a scandal that Sean's death was not properly investigated at the time.

"We have faith in the newly appointed Coroner and hope that he will help us to uncover the truth."

Emma Norton, lawyer for Liberty and solicitor for Sean's family, said: "This Government continues to chip away at human rights and other legal protections for our soldiers.

"Cases like Sean's show how vital it is that serving men and women receive the care and support they need and, if things go wrong, that independent investigations are conducted to fix things or learn lessons.

"This grieving family has had to wait 22 years for answers and we sincerely hope this fresh inquest - achieved only thanks to the Human Rights Act - will finally help them learn the truth."