Sandhurst cadet was victim of ‘gross sexual misconduct by senior staff’ before death
A Sandhurst cadet fell victim to “gross sexual misconduct” by senior officers before she was found hanged in her room, an inquest has been told.
Olivia Perks was discovered dead at the elite Berkshire military training school on Feb 6 2019.
An earlier inquest hearing recorded the 21-year-old’s provisional cause of death as “asphyxia due to hanging”.
A pre-inquest review in Reading was told that sexual misconduct allegedly perpetuated against her was “clearly” on Perks’ mind before she died.
Mike Rawlinson, representing Perks’ mother Louise Townsend, said: “Her family are of course very concerned about sexual misconduct committed against her by senior military officers. It was clearly something on Olivia’s mind in her last few days.
“We would seek to put questions to witnesses that arise out of our concern there was gross sexual misconduct by senior officers towards her.”
Edward Pleeth, representing the Ministry of Defence (MoD), replied: “We entirely accept that questions of sexual relationships must be included within the scope of the inquest.”
‘Series of red flags about mental health’
She had also made a “significant” suicide attempt before she died during a Royal Engineers visit, and a “series of red flags” about her mental health had been raised, the hearing was told.
Lawyers representing two sergeants who are “interested parties” in proceedings, named only as Colour Sergeant Griffith and Staff Sergeant Easingwood, who was a Sergeant at the time, appeared at the hearing.
The nature of their relationship to her was not disclosed.
The MoD has since said that it is senior soldiers/non-commissioned officers, not senior officers, who are implicated.
Mr Pleeth said one more person may become an interested party before the full hearing.
The coroner also ruled the “management of Olivia’s alcohol consumption” would have to be considered within the scope of the full inquest.
‘Full, fair and fearless’ inquest
The full inquest will focus on three events in the run-up to Perks’ death: the Royal Engineers visit; a trip to Normandy; and the Falklands Ball on Feb 1 2019.
A “pen-portrait” of her will also be painted.
The full hearing will seek to establish her past medical history, previous self-harm and how her suicide risk was managed, as well as the investigation into events following the charity ball, events on the day she died, including whether there was evidence of “intention”, and her cause of death.
Sexual misconduct and alcohol consumption emerged as issues during discussions of what issues lay within the scope of the inquest.
Lawyers dealt with administrative matters during the rest of the hearing.
Alison McCormick, the assistant coroner for Berkshire, told the family she hoped to hold a “full, fair and fearless” inquest which will sit for 15 days between April 24 and May 26.
Perks’ mother attended court and Ian Perks, her father, appeared remotely.
Another pre-inquest review will be held on a date in March, still to be fixed.