Bournemouth Soldier Inquest: MoD Denies Cover Up

24 February 2014, 17:18

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has denied a "cover-up'' after an inquest was adjourned into the death of a Royal Marine Police officer from Bournemouth, found hanging in her barracks after she accused two soldiers of rape.

Corporal Anne-Marie Ellement, 30, was found dead at Bulford Barracks near Salisbury in Wiltshire on 9 October 2011.

She alleged she had been raped by two soldiers in November 2009, while she was posted in Germany but had been left "absolutely devastated'' by the decision taken by military investigators not to prosecute them, an inquest in Salisbury heard.

Nicholas Rheinberg, deputy coroner for Swindon and Wiltshire, was expected to deliver his conclusion into Cpl Ellement's death today following the three-week inquest.

But the hearing was adjourned after the court heard an inventory listing items including three mobile phones and a pink diary found in Cpl Ellement's room had been discovered by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

However the items have not been found and it is thought they may have been handed to Cpl Ellement's father, who has not been located, the inquest heard.

More than 1,400 files, including 29 which were deemed relevant to the inquest by the MoD, would now be disclosed to Cpl Ellement's family for the first time, the inquest heard.

Kirsten Heaven, who represents Cpl Ellement's two sisters, told the inquest: "The family are devastated and upset this disclosure has come so late in the day.''

Nicholas Moss, representing the MoD, said there was "no evidence of a cover-up''.

"The MoD has gone to exceptional lengths to seek to provide as fullest disclosure as possible,'' he said.

The undisclosed items had been found by the army's legal team in the last few days, the hearing was told.

Adjourning proceedings until Monday morning, the coroner said there was a "danger'' in pursuing information which was "unrealistic to find'' and which may be of little relevance to the inquest.

"I suggest all urgency is given to track down any missing documents,'' Mr Rheinberg said.

"I'm going to grant the application (for adjournment) on strict and immediate terms.''

A previous inquest in March 2012 recorded a conclusion that Cpl Ellement, originally from Bournemouth, took her own life.

But last August, the High Court ordered a fresh hearing, which began in Salisbury on 3 February.

During the inquest, Cpl Ellement's family claimed she had felt bullied by colleagues and without support in the Army.

Her sister, Sharon Hardy, 44, a married mother-of-four from Christchurch, Dorset, told the inquest: "When she died, my immediate thoughts were the Army, the rape, the bullying and the overwork.''

Speaking after the hearing, Cpl Ellement's sister, Khristina Swain, said:

"I'm so angry and so upset after waiting all this time, especially a year, to get where we are, to find out we haven't had all the information and documents we actually need - I'm just absolutely devastated.

"The good thing is, by waiting until next Monday, hopefully we'll get all the answers we need and hopefully we'll finally get the truth.''

Ms Swain said she had "concerns'' about why the information had been come to light so late into the inquest proceedings.

"Why haven't we been told this stuff?'' she said.

"Why has it been held? We just want the truth, that's all.''

Ms Swain said she had "lost faith''.

"In my eyes, I feel there could be a cover-up,'' she said.

"Hopefully next Monday we will get the answers to why my sister took her life and hopefully we can have justice.''