Army cadet officer feared losing place at Sandhurst before death, inquest hears

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An army cadet officer who was found hanged in her room had an “overwhelming sense of embarrassment” after an incident at a ball five days before she died, an inquest has heard.

Olivia Perks, 21, was discovered dead at Sandhurst military academy in Berkshire on February 6 2019.

Her inquest at Reading Town Hall was told she had spent the night with Colour Sergeant Griffith after the Falklands Ball on February 1 2019. Both of them denied any sexual activity had taken place.

The next morning she missed a parade and had to walk past colleagues in her ball outfit from the night before, the court previously heard.

Ms Perks had spoken to a chaplain about the incident in the days after it happened.

Padre Chris Killock, a pastoral figure at Sandhurst who cadets could speak to confidentially, had spoken to Ms Perks about her mental health following a previously suicide attempt in July 2018. He had met with her formally three times after the incident and also texted her advice.

Mr Killock explained she was scared she was going to be kicked out of the college.

He told the court: “She was hugely remorseful at possibly getting other people into trouble. There was this overwhelming sense of embarrassment. She was under the misassumption she was going to be kicked out straight away.

“(She felt like she) was being treated as a suspect in whatever investigation was going to happen. She was the vulnerable adult in this situation.”

The padre tried to tell her to “let the dust settle” and reassured her.

The inquest heard Ms Perks made a suicide attempt while drunk at a Royal Engineers visit in July 2018, but the incident was considered a “blip” and she was at low risk of reoccurrence.

But none of the chain of command at Sandhurst were shown a risk assessment following the incident and only welfare officer Julie Palmer and a commander who had left the academy had access to the report.

The risk assessment on July 30 warned Ms Perks may be dealing with a “severe level” of stress and she may be too embarrassed to reach out for help following the incident, the court head on Friday.

The court heard she was very worried about being kicked out of Sandhurst.

Bridget Dolan KC, counsel to the coroners, quizzed Ms Palmer about why information had not been passed on.

Ms Dolan said: “None of this had been passed on to the chain of command at the time they were managing the incident.

“The stressful incident in February was one that put Olivia’s position on the course in jeopardy.

“What had been (learnt) back in July was that was likely to be a stress and a trigger point for her.

Ms Palmer agreed “absolutely yes”.

Ms Dolan added: “If they had known this they would have been in a position to make a better informed view on what prevention and support was needed to be put in place for Olivia over the next few days.”

After hearing Ms Palmer’s evidence, the coroner engaged article two, meaning the state or its agents have failed to protect the deceased against a human threat or other risk.

Ms Perks was warned she could face the sack if her behaviour during a suicide attempt the previous year was repeated, the inquest previously heard.

She was given a “dressing down” in a meeting and returned to duties two days after the incident in July 2018.

An earlier inquest hearing recorded her provisional cause of death as “asphyxia due to hanging”.

The inquest continues.

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