A 19-year-old soldier is believed to have taken her own life after being subjected to sexual harassment from her boss, according to an internal army inquiry report.
Royal Artillery Gunner Jaysley Beck was found dead at Larkhill Camp in Wiltshire in December 2021 after experiencing “an intense period of unwelcome behaviour”, the inquiry report said.
A redacted version of the internal review, published on Wednesday, details how Beck received more than 1,000 messages and voicemails from her boss in October 2021. In November, the number of messages increased to more than 3,500. The boss is not named in the report.
“It is almost certain this was a causal factor in her death,” the report said. In the weeks before her death, she messaged her boss to say: “I can’t handle it any more. It’s weighing me down.”
Speaking to the BBC, Beck’s mother, Leighann McCready, said: “You’d think the easiest solution is block him, you can’t just block your boss.” She said her daughter was reluctant to report the behaviour because of how a previous sexual assault complaint was dealt with by the army.
McCready said: “She was always down, she was fed up of his behaviour, [and] it just started ruining a job that she really enjoyed doing.”
The report said Beck’s death came “out of the blue” to her chain of command. It also said two relationships, an “unhealthy approach to alcohol”, and family issues including a bereavement may also have contributed to Beck’s death.
Her mother rejected this, telling the BBC: “I think they are trying to put a lot on her family. They have said that we are partly to blame for the passing of our daughter.”
An inquest date to determine how the 19-year-old died has yet to be set. Beck, who joined the army at 16, had no diagnosed mental health conditions, according to the report. Britain is one of 19 countries that recruit 16-year-olds into the army.
The report found significant evidence of inappropriate sexual behaviour from male soldiers towards female soldiers at the Larkhill garrison, with one witness describing routinely receiving comments from male soldiers that were “vile” and “degrading”, according to the Centre for Military Justice (CMJ), which is representing the family.
The case raises wider questions surrounding the “culture of institutional misogyny” at army barracks that have come under intense scrutiny in recent years. In 2021, a parliamentary report said the UK military was failing to protect female recruits. It revealed nearly two-thirds of women in the armed forces had experienced bullying, sexual harassment and discrimination during their career – which later resulted in an overhaul by the MoD into how complaints were handled.
In July 2021, it was reported that Beck had been sexually assaulted by a warrant officer at a social event. After the incident, which was reported by a colleague, Beck hid in the bathroom and later spent the remainder of the evening in her car, according to the report.
The CMJ said the incident was reported but not referred to police, and there “appears to have been no meaningful investigation”. The chain of command “took the incident seriously”, but the report added: “Evidence suggests that the correct reporting process was not followed.”
In a letter of apology to Beck after the incident, the perpetrator wrote his “door will always be open”, according to the CMJ. The report acknowledged that how the incident was handled may have contributed to a loss of confidence in Beck reporting future incidents.
“This is something my daughter will have to carry, or would have had to carry, for the rest of her life,” said McCready.
Beck told her family of the sexual assault and “a sustained campaign” of controlling sexual harassment from her boss in the months before she died, said the family’s lawyer, Emma Norton.
Norton said: “It is hugely significant that the army has admitted that this sexual harassment was a causative factor in her death. If there is one silver lining in this awful situation it is the fact that the army has accepted that at this relatively early stage. I don’t think that would have happened a few years ago.”
An army spokesperson said: “Our thoughts and sympathies remain with Gunner Jaysley-Louise Beck’s family and friends at this difficult time. The circumstances surrounding Gunner Beck’s death, including the cause, are still to be determined by the coroner. It would be inappropriate to comment further until the coroner’s inquest has been completed.”
In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.