Inquest hears how soldiers ‘hid in cupboards to avoid random punishments’

Sean Benton (centre) died at the Deepcut Barracks in 1995
Sean Benton (centre) died at the Deepcut Barracks in 1995

Deepcut trainees locked each other in cupboards to hide from army officers, an inquest heard.

A soldier who was at Deepcut barracks with Sean Benton when he died, said he would cower for hours in cupboards and ceilings.

“We ended up hiding in cupboards from the NCOs,” former solider Anthony Thompson told the second inquest in Pte Benton’s death.

He said recruits were terrified of the instructors at Deepcut and feared being randomly punished: “We were terrified we would be targeted as well. There were three of us who used to lock each other in cupboards.

“I was a grown man, I was 21, and I was hiding in a cupboard. You had to put a lot of trust in the person locking you in the cupboard. You would sit in the cupboard for hours in the day.”

Asked by Paul Greaney QC for the Benton family why he would hide, Mr Thompson said: “The punishments, the humiliations, you didn’t want to be targeted.”

Mr Thompson admitted he thought he had a breakdown while at Deepcut, and again after leaving the army.

A second inquest into the death of Sean Benton at the Surrey army camp was ordered in 2016 after the High Court quashed the original suicide verdict. He was the first of four young soldiers shot to death at the camp between 1995 and 2002.

Mr Thompson described racist bullying and ritual humiliation at the camp. He also said he had been told he was not allowed to leave the army and punished when he complained about conditions. The inquest continues.

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