A former detective, who investigated deaths at the Army’s Deepcut barracks in Surrey, has said it was “staggering” the MoD failed to tell him of a fifth death at the base where four soldiers died of gunshot wounds.
Retired Detective Chief Inspector Colin Sutton, who was the senior investigating officer for Surrey Police, said he should have been told of the death of Private Anthony Bartlett in July 2001.
Privates Sean Benton, Cheryl James, Geoff Gray and James Collinson all died of gunshot wounds in separate incidents at Deepcut Barracks between 1995 and 2002.
The circumstances of all five deaths, including the previously unknown case of Anthony Bartlett, are investigated in a new eight-part podcast, Death At Deepcut.
Anthony Bartlett was 26, older than most recruits and the father of a young son. He had been at the barracks for five months when he died.
Pte James Collinson, 17, from Perth (top left), Pte Cheryl James, 18, from Llangollen, North Wales (top right), Pte Sean Benton from Hastings, East Sussex (bottom left), and Private Geoff Gray, 17, from Hackney, east London (bottom right) all died at Deepcut barracks in Surrey
Speaking to The Telegraph his brother Steve, himself a former soldier and later a police officer, said Anthony had always wanted to join up.
“He just wanted to get into his uniform,” Steve said
Anthony had torn his Achilles tendon in training and had been warned that he could be discharged from the Army on medical grounds.
On 16 July 2001, Steve talked to his brother on the phone and heard he was going to fight the potential discharge order.
“He was really fed up that he was getting the runaround on whether they were going to discharge him,” Steve said.
“He felt like they were shoving him full of pills and ignoring him. I said, they can’t just kick you out. He had no intention of leaving, and he certainly wasn’t suicidal.”
There are anomalies in the Army’s recording of the death.
According to its own internal board of enquiry, Anthony was found not breathing in his room around 12.15am.
However, in the Army ‘occurrence book’ he is shown as found dead at 3.40am. This has never been explained.
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Furthermore, no pill containers were found at the scene or in his locker.
The podcast series reports on that evidence that might have answered important questions about the deaths of Ptes Benton, James, Gray and Collinson was either ignored, overlooked or buried.
The families of the four recruits have never agreed with the MoD’s assertion their wounds were self-inflicted.
A series of inquests, investigations and reviews subsequently revealed evidence of horrific bullying, abuse and negligence at the barracks and chronic failings in the investigations by both the Army and Surrey police.
DCI Colin Sutton investigated the deaths of Pte Geoff Gray who died of two gunshot wounds in September 2001 and Pte James Collinson who died in March 2002.
However, he was not told that Anthony Bartlett had been found dead at the barracks just two months before the death of Pte Gray, even though Surrey Police had investigated it at the time.
Pte Bartlett’s death had been "kept hidden from me effectively," Mr Sutton told Newsnight.
Deepcut Army deaths
"Nobody told me about it," he said. "If you’re the senior investigating officer looking at the deaths of two soldiers at Deepcut and there’s another death of a soldier that you’re not told about, you know, it’s just staggering to me.
"I just don’t understand how that information can be kept from an investigation team that’s looking at this at that barracks."
The coroner’s verdict said Anthony’s death was accidental, caused by acute poisoning with Co-Proxamol, a pain-relief opioid.
In 2007, the Minister of State for the Armed Forces announced that the Deepcut barracks would be closed after 2013, and the land released for housing development. Demolition of the barracks is presently underway.
“Deepcut means death,” Yvonne Heath, mother of Pte Collinson, told the Telegraph.
“The name Deepcut reminds me of the deep cut, the big hole that I have in my life. I wish I’d never heard of it. And the sooner they knock it down, the better.
“I’d be quite happy to drive the bulldozer through it myself.”