Deepcut inquiry rules death of soldier Sean Benton was ‘suicide’

The death of soldier young Sean Benton at Deepcut Barracks in 1995 was caused by "self-inflicted" gunshot wounds to the chest, coroner Peter Rook QC has ruled at an inquest at Woking Coroner’s Court.

Pte Sean Benton, 20, of Hastings, fatally shot himself hours after being told he would be discharged from the Army.

He was the first of four recruits to die at the barracks between 1995 and 2002 and was found with five bullet wounds to his chest.

Summing up the inquiry today the coroner said: "I’m satisfied that the fatal wounds were self inflicted."

The hearing was told in the early hours of June 9 1995, Pte Benton – dressed in full military clothing – approached two juniors on guard duty and told them one of them he was to relieve them.

Pte Benton said he would then go on solo patrol – gun shots were heard a short time later, the coroner said.

He added: "It is clear Sean devised a carefully planned ruse to trick the guard into handing over the weapon."

The coroner said he did not believe two officers who were at the scene when Pte Benton shot himself had themselves fired shots at the young soldier.

Mr Rook added that the soldier had serious chest injuries and "asked for his mother" in the moments before he died.

He said the first round injured the soldier, but that a second round – fired by Pte Benton when two officers arrived at the scene – proved fatal.

Notes to his friends and family were found afterwards.

The coroner Mr Rook recorded a formal conclusion of suicide.

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Summing up, he said: "There was ample evidence available to those at Deepcut that Sean was vulnerable."

He added: "A common theme from former trainee colleagues is they observed a change in him … he was not as bubbly as he used to be."

A witness previously told the inquest: "Sean was initially happy and as time went on he laughed less … he just stopped caring."

This included a change in his demeanour and his appearance after he failed a military driving test, the court heard.

The coroner added: "It was not just those at Deepcut that noticed a change.

"His mother remarked to police that he phoned home less often and described Deepcut (in February 1995) as ‘boring and repetitive’."

The coroner described a litany of failures with the original investigation into Pte Benton’s death.

He said he was hampered by a failure to preserve evidence, poor photographs of the scene and a lack of scrutiny of eyewitness accounts, among other things.

He said: "Even by the standards of 1995, the investigation into Sean’s death was woefully inadequate.

"My own investigation has been greatly hindered by the inadequacies of the original investigation."

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