Date: 9 Jun 1995
Sean Benton died at Deepcut Army Barracks.
He was found dead with five bullets in his chest. He had been told a short while before that he was to be discharged from the army because he had a drinking problem.
In July 2018 an inquest ruled that his death was a suicide. He was one of four soldiers to have died suspiciously at the barracks between 1995 and 2002.
It was said that two juniors had been on guard duty at the time and that Sean Benton had gone up to them, dressed in full military clothing, and told one of them that he was relieving them. He was then said to have taken the soldiers gun and then said that he was going on a solo patrol, and that a short time later several shots were heard, and he was found dead. The Coroner said that he did not believe that the two officers who had been at the scene at the time had themselves shot Sean Benton.
It was heard that when he was first found he was still alive but that he fired again, causing a fatal wound. It was heard that as he died, he asked for his mother.
His first inquest in 1995 also recorded a verdict of suicide, however, it was heard that no evidence concerning his experience had been given at the inquest and that the inquest only lasted a couple of hours. His family campaigned for 20 years to have the 1995 inquest ruling quashed and to have a fresh inquest. They said that he had been the subject of severe bullying.
The speed at which the 1995 inquest took place resulted in people claiming that there had been a cover up.
However, the police and army both stated that they were of the opinion that his death was a suicide.
At the 2018 inquest it was heard that his instructors were trying to break him and that he was being bullied. A former soldier who had been at the Deepcut Army Barracks at the time said that Sean Benton had been treated like a piece of shit. The former soldier also said that she had seen Sean Benton being punched, lying helpless on the ground, facing verbal abuse and being humiliated.
She said that she had seen him shouted at in front of 150 other soldiers, punched to the ground and then kicked in the back twice. However, at the 2018 inquest, it was heard that no one else seemed to remember the event, even though she said it had had happened in front of 150 soldiers, and that the soldier that had made the claims was admitted that she had only been at the barracks for two weeks.
Another soldier said that they saw a sergeant that was in charge of the soldiers headbutt Sean Benton.
The sergeant who was accused of being a bully and a psychopath said that his aggressive manner was a performance to create discipline and portrayed a tougher version of who he was. He described his other side as his twin brother and said that it was his twin brother that was doing the shouting and not him. At the 2018 inquest he said that soldiers did come to him with their problems but accepted that some might not come to him with their problems because of his twin brother.
The inquest heard of another incident when Sean Benton had learned that he had failed his driving test which meant that he would not be able to be a driver which was what he had wanted. It was said that he would have then had to have become a pioneer which he didn't want to do and he then got drunk and started crying. It was heard that a while later he smashed a window and when he was seen next he had blood on his neck. It was then heard that he was jailed for 10 days for that incident during which he was shackled and made to parade around the canteen in front of all the other soldiers to humiliate and embarrass him.
It was also heard that on another occasion he had been thrown out of a window, although not at a great height.
It was noted that on the day he died, Sean Benton would not have had a gun as he was not on guard duty.
Following his death, notes written by him to his family were found.
Deepcut Army Barracks was described as a holding station where soldiers went after their basic training but before their specialist training, and it was heard that there were a lack of opportunities and a lot of alcohol consumption.
Deepcut Army Barracks is also known for three other suspicious suicides and deaths, those of James Collinson, Cheryl James and Geoff Gray, and also for Obrien Mario Clarke, a soldier, who was shot dead in London whilst on leave from the barracks.
The Coroner ruled that Sean Benton had been let down by the army and their lack of support. He also admitted that 'Even by the standards of 1995, the investigation into Sean’s death was woefully inadequate'.
Following the 2018 inquest, the human rights group Liberty said that the Army instructors who assaulted Sean Benton should face a criminal investigation. His family also said that they would be asking the police to open a criminal investigation into his death.