A teenage soldier who was found dead at army barracks in Surrey may not have killed herself, an inquest has heard. Private Cheryl James, 18, was found with a fatal gunshot wound at Deepcut Barracks in November 1995.
James was one of four soldiers to have died at the barracks between 1995 and 2002 amid claims of bullying and abuse. A High Court ordered a fresh inquest into James's death after the original 1995 open verdict was quashed.
The family of James rejected claims their daughter killed herself amid allegations she may have been "sexually coerced or raped" by senior ranks some time before her death.
Alison Foster QC, working for James's family, had said new evidence has come forward which could suggest the 18-year-old did not die of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. At a preliminary hearing at Woking coroners court in Surrey, Foster said: "Now there is distinguished pathological evidence showing that the shot that killed Cheryl James may not have been self-inflicted.
"Third party involvement is more than merely speculative, according to this inquest's pathologist. It's important such evidence is fully acquired and assimilated."
Coroner Brian Barker QC has said he will not consider claims of a "wider culture of sexual abuse" at Deepcut barracks as the inquest into James's death is not a public inquiry.
Privates Geoff Gray, 17, Sean Benton, 20, and James Collinson, 17, also died from gunshot wounds at the barracks over a seven-year-period. Families of the four have refused to accept that they committed suicide and accused the army of a cover-up.