A BOYFRIEND of the Army recruit found shot dead at Deepcut barracks told her to pick which of her lovers she wanted to be with on the morning she died, an inquest heard.

Pte Paul Wilkinson said he and Pte Cheryl James had already been caught in bed by her boyfriend Sapper Simeon Carr-Minns and that he wanted the love triangle at the Surrey base to end.

Mr Wilkinson, then aged 16, told Woking Coroner’s Court he spoke to Pte James, 18, about 20 minutes before hearing she had been found dead with a bullet to the head on November 27, 1995.

Mr Wilkinson described Pte James, of Llangollen, as “happy and laughing” and “a bit hungover” when they spoke for 45 minutes to an hour in a cabin while she was on guard duty.

Of that secret meeting, Mr Wilkinson said: “I just remember saying ‘pick one of us, if you want to be friends that would be fine if you want to stay with him’.

“She said that she did not. It [the conversation] was over in a couple of minutes. She said she did not want to be with him.”

They were cuddling and trying to sort things out. 

Pte James was one of four recruits to die at the base in seven years.

Mr Wilkinson said he was not trying to avoid being seen while in the guard cabin and he was just sitting in a chair. He said they were talking about their fledgling relationship and it was not a showdown because Pte James had offered sex to a friend of his the night before.

Mr Wilkinson was eventually spotted by a major, who was riding his bicycle into the barracks, and told to leave because he should not have been with Pte James while she was on guard duty.

He said the officer “pretty much escorted me back to the barracks”.

The major has previously told the inquest he definitely did not march Mr Wilkinson off the barracks. 

On being told she was dead, Mr Wilkinson recalled: “I said ‘It cannot be’. I was talking to her about 20 minutes ago. 

“I said ‘I think you are talking daft’.”

Mr Wilkinson said he and Pte James had been caught naked in bed by her regular boyfriend, Mr Carr-Minns, then known as Jim, just days before she died.

Mr Wilkinson remembers being “upset” and “angry” when Mr Carr-Minns, who was stationed at another base, walked in on them at the barracks. 

Alison Foster QC, for the James family, suggested to Mr Wilkinson he was “not just angry”, but “humiliated” when Mr Carr-Minns turned up as there were other people in the 

room who began teasing and laughing at him.

Being caught in bed by her boyfriend “is not what you want”, Mr Wilkinson said.

Ms Foster took Mr Wilkinson through the differences in his statements he has made about the day Pte James died.

After telling him the major was certain he did not walk him away, she asked: “Were you aware that you needed to sort out some sort of alibi?”

Mr Wilkinson said he had always said the same thing about being asked to leave, saying it is just that the officer remembers it differently.

Ms Foster recalled a December 2002 statement in which Mr Wilkinson commented if he had not been forced off the grounds he could have been facing a murder charge and been in prison.

Stating that Pte James’s father Des, who was sitting in the court, “only wanted to the know the truth” of what happened 20 years ago, Ms Foster posed questions to Mr Wilkinson.

Ms Foster asked him if he saw Pte James sitting by a tree or if either of them had been messing with her rifle.

Mr Wilkinson was asked if he saw an accident happen to Pte James, if he was present when the trigger was pulled, how close he was when the shot rang out and if he heard it.

Mr WIlkinson, who had said “no” to each question, added: “I was in the smoking area but there was no shot that rang out. Nobody heard it, not a single person. There were several people in the area with me.”

Mr Wilkinson had earlier denied he got violent when he was angry.

Ms Foster pointed out he had put someone’s head through an arcade machine in the NAAFI when he thought they were laughing about Pte James’s death.

Mr Wilkinson said he “had been pushed to breaking point. 

“I think any other person would have done the same thing,” he said.

Francesca Whitelaw, for the Ministry of Defence, noted Mr Wilkinson has an illness which means he has poor short-term memory.

The hearing was adjourned until today.