Tuesday, February 25, 2014

British Defence dept. accused of cover up as fresh evidence emerges in rape claim inquest

The family of a military policewoman found hanged in her barracks have accused the Ministry of Defence of a "cover-up" after it emerged that a diary and mobile phones found in her room have gone missing.

Relatives of Cpl Anne Marie Ellement said they were "absolutely devastated" that the items discovered among her personal possessions have not been admitted as evidence in an inquest into her death.

The Ministry of Defence denied a cover up as it acknowledged it had found 1,400 new files on a computer disk that may be of use to the case.

The disclosure on the eve of a verdict into the death of Cpl Anne Marie Ellement led the coroner to postpone proceedings for a week, so the new evidence could be studied.

Cpl Ellement, from Bournemouth, was found hanging from a fire escape at Bulford Barracks, in Wiltshire, having written "I’m sorry" in lipstick on her mirror.

The 30-year-old alleged she had been raped by two soldiers in November 2009, while she was posted in Germany.

She had been left "absolutely devastated" by military investigators’ decision not to prosecute the unnamed soldiers.

The inquest coroner had been due to give a verdict in the three-week hearing when the MOD lawyers admitted they had late last week found the new files.

Details also emerged of an inventory, listing a previously unmentioned pink diary and three phones taken from the room of the dead woman.

Kirsten Heaven, lawyer for the family, said they were "devastated and upset that this disclosure has come so late in the day".

She said it was a "flagrant breach" of the MOD’s duty to disclose all documents which may be relevant to the death.

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.

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."

Nick Moss, counsel for the MOD, said the ministry apologised, but had not acted in bad faith.

Nicholas Rheinberg agreed to postpone the inquest for a week to allow the lawyers to study the documents. However it was not clear where the phones or diary were, or what they held. Mr Rheinberg said it was possible they had been destroyed, or passed to Cpl Ellement’s father, who is estranged from the rest of the family.

The MOD’s lawyers said they estimated around 30 or the 1,400 new found files would prove relevant.

Mr Rheinberg said: "The danger is that we constantly pursue forever and a day documents and information that it is firstly unrealistic to assume we ever may find and secondly in any event may be of doubtful relevance."

The three week inquest in Salisbury is a fresh investigation into the death after her family argued an earlier hearing failed to look at all the circumstances around her death.

The first inquest, which delivered a suicide verdict, heard no evidence from her family or about the rape allegations.

RAF police are now reinvestigating the rape accusation against two unnamed soldiers.

The hearing heard evidence form Cpl Ellement’s family and some colleagues that comrades had "turned on her" when she reported the alleged attack.

They said she was labelled the "girl who cried rape" and she faced a campaign of bullying, including from the girlfriend of one of the accused.

The inquest heard Cpl Ellement also struggled with her new role as acting sergeant and having to work 80 to 90 hours a week. Friends also said she was seen as unlucky in love.

Original report here




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