Police are investigating reports of sexual offences after an inquiry found that a 19-year-old soldier died following two months of harassment by one of her bosses.
Royal Artillery Gunner Jaysley Beck was found dead at Larkhill Camp in Wiltshire in December 2021.
The Army service inquiry report published on Wednesday described “an intense period of unwelcome behaviour” and said it is “almost certain this was a causal factor” in the teenager’s death.
Wiltshire Police said officers are “aware of reports of sexual offences” and confirmed they are “already actively investigating”.
In October 2021, Gunner Beck‘s immediate boss, who wanted a relationship with her but it was not reciprocated, sent her more than 1,000 WhatsApp messages and voicemails. The next month this increased to over 3,500, the Army investigation found.
“Whilst this behaviour ended the week before her death, it appears that it continued to affect her and had taken a significant toll on her mental resilience and wellbeing,” the report said.
Gunner Beck‘s mother, Leighann McCready, said her daughter would ring the family saying his behaviour was becoming “increasingly worrying towards her”.
The week before her death, she left a work trip because of his behaviour, and was collected by a friend who found her “trembling and shaking”, the report said.
In July 2021, another of Gunner Beck‘s seniors made an “unwarranted and unwelcome sexual advance”, the report said.
Ms McCready said her daughter told her the colleague “tried to grab her around the neck and put his hand between her legs” before she said “get off me sir”. She then reportedly slept in her car that night as she was afraid he would go into her room.
The man involved was given a minor sanction and told to write the teenager a letter of apology. The report added that it was “possibly a factor that may have influenced her failure to report other events that happened subsequently”.
Ms McCready said: “It’s easy for people to say why don’t you block him, you’ve got to have respect for those above you and Jaysley did have respect, it wasn’t as straightforward as you can block your boss.”
She added: “It was very apparent how it emotionally affected her. It took its toll on Jaysley, she was a very strong character, so for Jaysley to cry, there was something really hurting her feelings.”
The report says family issues, including a bereavement, were also responsible for Gunner Beck’s death, which her family reject.
It detailed three “contributory factors”, including the “significant strain” of a sexual relationship with a married colleague in the last few weeks of her life; a relationship which ended in November 2021 which involved “repeated allegations of unfaithfulness on the part of the boyfriend”; and an “unhealthy approach to alcohol, with episodes of binge drinking”.
It added that Gunner Beck had no diagnosed mental health conditions and had not sought welfare support from anyone in the Army.
Her death has led the Centre for Military Justice, a charity which provides legal help to Armed Forces members, to call for serious sexual harassment and bullying cases to be handled by an independent body.
The inquiry into her death heard evidence from witnesses about inappropriate sexual behaviour being “commonplace amongst a significant minority” of male soldiers towards their female colleagues at Larkhill. Measures to tackle this kind of behaviour were introduced in November 2022, it said.
Reviews in recent years, including from Air Chief Marshal Michael Wigston and the Defence Sub-Committee on Women in the Armed Forces, have highlighted levels of bullying, sexism and racist behaviour, and in the case of the latter inquiry, bullying, harassment and discrimination.
The family’s lawyer, Emma Norton, from the Centre for Military Justice, said: “The Army still has a systemic problem with misogyny and sexism. It’s taking steps to address this but they don’t go nearly far enough.
“Two recent independent reviews (Wigston and the Defence Committee Inquiry into Women in the Armed Forces) have recommended that the handling of serious sexual harassment and bullying cases must be taken away from the single services themselves and given to an independent (or semi-independent) body. And that sexual assault investigations should be handled by civilian police.
“Time after time the MoD rejects these calls. So when the MoD today tells you that it has a zero tolerance for sexual harassment or assault, it is important to bear that in mind.”
Ms McCready said Gunner Beck was 16 when she joined the Army, she “loved her career” and was due to have a promotion.
She added: “She was just so loving, really had a heart of gold, would do anything for anyone. She always looked out for others and put others before herself.
An Army spokesperson said: “Our thoughts and sympathies remain with Gunner Jaysley-Louise Beck‘s family and friends at this difficult time.”
They added that it would be inappropriate to comment further until after the inquest.
Commenting on the report and Gunner Beck’s death, defence secretary Grant Shapps said it was “very, very upsetting, very, very sad to read about it” and his thoughts were with her family.
Wiltshire Police would not confirm what the investigation was in relation to.
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