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Deepcut wound ‘consistent with suicide’

Pte Cheryl James
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Pte Cheryl James was found dead with a bullet wound to the head

The bullet wound that killed a teenage soldier was “consistent” with a self-inflicted injury, according to a ballistics expert.

Pte Cheryl James, 18, was found dead at Deepcut barracks in Surrey in 1995.

Former forensic scientist David Pryor said it was his “strong opinion” a bullet injury between her right eye and nose was an “intimate contact shot”.

Mr Pryor was asked to provide a report seven years after the death of Pte James, from Llangollen, Denbighshire.

He worked from photographs of her body, and said he had “vastly less information” than if he had been involved in the case earlier.

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MOD Police

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Pte Cheryl James died in woods near the gate of Deepcut barracks

He told the inquest pictures of Pte James’s body showed a “rifle by her side, muzzle pointed towards her head”.

“I considered that the position was consistent with her having held the rifle,” he said.

Mr Pryor said blackening between her thumb and forefinger “could be discharge residue from the weapon” but it could also be dirt and dust from the scene.

He said the wound showed features “consistent with a contact shot”, and added: “By that I mean with the weapon muzzle in intimate contact with her head.”

The inquest was also told her injuries exhibited “stellate tearing” – caused by expanding muzzle gases – which he said would not be “observed when the shot is fired from a distance”.

Blackening on the face of Pte James was also consistent with a contact wound but Mr Pryor could not rule out the possibility that it was make-up or dirt.

Ann Kiernan, who was appointed by the court, said marks on one of the eighteen-year-old’s hands were “entirely consistent” with having been close to the muzzle of the weapon when it was fired.

Both experts had to work from photographs of Pte James’s injuries.

Pte James was one of four recruits to die at the base in seven years.

An initial inquest into her death in 1995 recorded an open verdict, but that was overturned by the High Court which ordered the new hearing.

The hearing, in Woking, continues.

Who were the Deepcut four? Background to the deaths and timeline of events.

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Privates Benton, James, Gray and Collinson died at Deepcut between 1995 and 2002

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