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Deepcut recruit Private Geoff Gray’s death was suicide, says coroner | UK News

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A coroner has ruled that a teenage recruit found shot dead at Deepcut barracks 18 years ago took his own life.

Pte Geoff Gray, 17, from County Durham, was found with two gunshot wounds to his head in the early hours of 17 September 2001.

The soldier’s family believed another person was responsible for his death as he had never had mental problems or shown any signs of distress.

He had been the third of four young recruits who had died at the barracks between 1995 and 2002, when there were allegations that bullying and abuse was rife.

But the inquest heard there was no suggestion Pte Gray was ever the victim of mistreatment or bullying at Deepcut, and had been happy and “army barmy” from a young age.

Judge Peter Rook QC said there was no evidence that anyone had intended or had a motive to harm the solider.

Mr Rook said: “It follows that at the moment he pulled the trigger, Geoff had to specific intention to end his life.”

Two of Pte Gray’s contemporaries told the inquest that he had been joking about shooting himself on the night of his death.

He was frustrated over increased guard duties all recruits were subject to in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks in New York, the inquest heard.

Pte Jack Blackburn recalled Pte Gray saying: “I’ve done two 24-hour shifts on the weekend. I feel like shooting myself,” before adding: “If I shoot myself first will you shoot yourself second?”

Four other recruits died at Deepcut
Image:
Four other recruits died at Deepcut

A few hours earlier, Pte Paul Craig overheard someone he believed to be Pte Gray saying “I wonder what it would be like to have a bullet in the head”, while playing computer games during a break.

After the coroner delivered his verdict, Pte Gray’s mother, Diane, was critical of Woking Coroner’s Court for refusing to grant a jury inquest.

She said her son’s death “still didn’t make any sense”.

Mrs Gray was also critical of the practice at Deepcut of sending very young trainees out on night patrols in just small groups with very powerful weapons.

She added that the family would continue to push for a public inquiry into the culture at Deepcut.

The original inquest into the death of Pte Gray reached an open verdict in 2002 but a second hearing was ordered after Pte Gray’s parents argued that fresh evidence had come to light.

Mr Rook criticised both Surrey Police and the Royal Military Police’s Special Investigation Branch (SIB) for their “lackadaisical” handling of the case.

He said: “It is clear that the very early assumption of suicide made at the scene led to a limited scene investigation, an absence of contemporary witness accounts were recorded and an early opportunity to explore important inconsistencies between search witnesses was lost.”

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