The long running second inquest into the death of Private Geoff Gray at Deepcut Barracks ended yesterday when HH Peter Rook QC returned a conclusion of suicide.
Geoff was only 17 years old when he was found dead from gunshot wounds in the grounds of the Officers’ Mess at approximately 01.10 hours on 17 September 2001. This fresh inquest, which was ordered by the High Court in 2017, had, in particular, explored whether Geoff had been shot by another person who had then moved his body to the location where it was found.
The Coroner held that Geoff, who had been on armed guard duty, had “died rapidly at the place where his body was found. No third party was involved in the shooting.”
On the Record of Inquest the Coroner recorded that Geoff had shot himself with a SA80 rifle that was set to automatic, causing two wounds to the head, and that “at the time Geoff fired the shots he intended to take his own life, although that state of mind may have only been transient.”
Questions had arisen as to how a young man who appeared as happy-go-lucky as Geoff could have carried out this fatal act. Particularly where, as the coroner found, “Geoff’s actions could not reasonably have been anticipated at the time. He did not suffer with any known psychological difficulties nor had he been the recipient of any ill treatment…Any concerns Geoff may have had did not relate to the camp regime.”
Having considered oral and written evidence from 105 witnesses, including 7 expert witnesses in pathology, ballistics and forensic science, the Coroner determined that Geoff had not been killed by another person. “However the army had failed adequately to address the risk of self-harm that might arise in respect of young and inexperienced trainees performing guard duty with unsupervised access to firearms. Proposals that trainees should not provide the Barracks’ guard, but be replaced with a professional guard force had not yet been acted upon.”
“Whilst it was entirely Geoff’s decision to take his own life, the above failures provided Geoff with an opportunity to go to an isolated location with a firearm where he could act as he did.”
The Coroner also made a report to Prevent Future Deaths (a ‘PFD’ report) directed to the Chief Coroner and the Royal College of Pathologists (see blog post here).
The Coroner’s detailed ‘findings of fact’ will shortly be posted on this site when HH Peter Rook QC releases an approved transcript.
 Sitting as an assistant coroner in Surrey
John Beggs QC and Cecily White of Serjeants’ Inn have represented the Surrey Police at each of the three fresh inquests into the deaths at Deepcut Barracks of Ptes Gray (in 2019), Benton (in 2018) and James (in 2016). Bridget Dolan QC and Jamie Mathieson were Counsel to the Inquest.