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'Soot deposits' indicative of gunshot wound.

BALLISTICS evidence in the death of Private Cheryl James, below, at Deepcut Barracks shows "soot deposits" on her thumb and face that are "indicative" of a close- or hard-contact gunshot wound, an inquest has been told.

T he 18-year-old army recruit was found with a fatal head wound on November 27, 1995, making her one of four young soldiers to die at the Deepcut Barracks in Surrey over a seven-year period, between 1995 and 2002.

Pte James, from Llangollen, Denbighshire, was found with a bullet injury between her right eye and the bridge of her nose.

Forensic ballistics expert Ann Kiernan conducted a series of experiments using synthetic bone, skin and tissue and pig skin at various firing distances to simulate the injury and deposition of soot from the rifle.

She told the inquest that in her opinion "the results obtained from pig belly skin is what I'd expect to see of gunshot wounds on human skin".

Alison Foster, QC, representing the James family, questioned the validity of Ms Kiernan's conclusions, citing a report compiled by pathologist Professor Derrick Pounder.

She told the inquest that the report queried the suggestion that the markings on Pte James' thumb were caused by soot from an SA80 British Army rifle, adding that it could have been the presence of "mud, earth or soil".

Ms Foster also said that a lack of an official weather report could limit the validity of the evidence.

But Ms Kiernan said that the "weather being damp does not necessarily mean there would be the presence of mud".

When questioned about the stellate tear, caused by the gunshot wound to Pte James' face, Ms Kiernan said that while these can be caused by long-distance shots, "the presence of soot would not be present".

"My conclusion from what I can see... in conjunction with the stellate tear and the presence of soot on the left hand suggest the muzzle was close distance from the face," she added.

When asked to compare Pte James' injuries to those of an anonymous suicide victim, known only as "Soldier A", Ms Kiernan added that the wounds had "comparable" features, including a "similar defect, a half-moon effect".

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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Apr 20, 2016
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