Campaign To Reopen Pte Collinson Inquest Ends

Posted on July 26, 2019

Yvonne Collinson-Heath and Jim Collinson said they saw the families of three other soldiers who died at the Army base in Surrey face new inquests and they did not have the strength. The first inquest into the death of James Collinson, from Perth, ended in an open verdict. His mother said the family still backs a public inquiry into the shootings.

Privates Sean Benton and Cheryl James died in 1995, followed by Pte Geoff Gray in 2001 and Pte Collinson in 2002.
Inquests at the time led to a suicide verdict for Pte Benton and open verdicts for the others. Three fresh inquests ended in suicide verdicts for Ptes Benton, James and Gray. Fresh calls for an inquiry came from the family of Pte Gray, from Seaham, County Durham, this year. His mother Diane Gray, from Hackney, London, said the recruits were children carrying loaded weapons.

Mrs Collinson-Heath, from Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, said the inquests left the other families with unanswered questions.
“Chief among them, for us, will always be why it took four young people to die violently before the British Army and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) admitted that there was something seriously wrong,” she said.
“Neither of us has the emotional or physical strength to sit silently through months of evidence about our son, listening to barristers who never knew him attempt to persuade a court that, notwithstanding the absence of evidence, our child was, probably, secretly suicidal.” She said her son was a child when he died, alone, armed when he should not have been, and on guard duty in the dark.

The family had asked for formal apologies from the MoD and Surrey Police for their failures, she said.
This year, Judge Peter Rook QC criticised the investigation at the time as “cursory” and carried out “with a closed mind”.
The family’s solicitor, Emma Norton from Liberty, said lines of questioning “deployed against” the family of Pte James had informed the Collinsons’ decision.
Those lines included reminding Des James, Pte James’s father, that police had also been hunting Milly Dowler’s killer and suggesting he might have been distracting them, she said.

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