Army cadet from Dudley who died was failed by Sandhurst

An Army officer cadet from Dudley found dead in her room at Sandhurst was failed by the service when she took her own life months after she was reprimanded for self-harming, an inquiry found.

Sandhurst Royal Miltary Academy
Sandhurst Royal Miltary Academy

Olivia Perks, who lived in Kingswinford, was discovered at the prestigious Royal Military Academy Sandhurst on February 6, 2019.

A damning report into the circumstances surrounding the 21-year-old's death found she was the victim of a “complete breakdown in welfare support” after an academy gym instructor started an affair with her even though she was known to be a suicide risk.

It suggested that college commanders failed to make allowances for her vulnerability during the intensive course that involved academic study and physical training. It stated there was a culture of alcohol and flings at the elite training college in Berkshire.

Miss Perks was in her last term when tragedy struck days after she was described as being embarrassed after being seen leaving someone's room. The report stated that she believed she would be dismissed from the course which was not true.

The report stated that at the time there 19 banned sexual relationships were taking place between campus staff and cadets, and that many involved older male instructors and female cadets under their supervision, despite intimate relationships between staff and trainees being strictly forbidden.

It stated that of the 30 trainees in her platoon, five were believed to be having flings with senior staff while 14 others took place between staff and other platoons.

It also stated: "This behaviour undermined the chain of command and was completely unacceptable in a training establishment.

"Staff were prepared to take the risk and contravene the rules and regulations. This risk-taking behaviour could have been misinterpreted by the officer cadets as an accepted norm and may explain why there was such an involvement with staff members at this time.

"During 2018, 19 relationships occurred between staff and cadets. Other examples of inappropriate behaviour included a colour sergeant or instructor boasting on parade of sexual relations with an officer cadet on the night of their commissioning.

"There was ultimately a complete misunderstanding of values and standards by the individuals concerned.

"The findings of the inquiry indicate several contributory factors. The situation was exacerbated by limited enforcement of the academy alcohol policy and a local culture of staff fraternisation and inappropriate relationships with officer cadets under their care."

The inquiry concluded that a number of staff were due to face disciplinary action following her death and the panel made more than 60 changes to welfare procedures at Sandhurst as a result.

Miss Perks, was a former pupil of Summerhill School, in Lodge Lane, Kingswinford, and a former worker at Wolverhampton's Waitrose. She had played rugby for Dudley Kingswinford RFC where she also coached youngsters.

General Sir Patrick Sanders, the Chief of the General Staff, said lessons would be learned.

“First and foremost, I wish to take this opportunity to extend my deepest condolences to Olivia’s family, friends and fellow Officer Cadets, and personally thank them for their fortitude and support throughout this inquiry. We all feel Olivia’s loss deeply, but none more so than those closest to her.

"I hope that they are able to draw some small comfort from knowing that this report will reinforce action across the whole of the British Army. Significant changes have already been made to improve Sandhurst’s culture, however, we will learn the lessons from this Inquiry. We owe it to Olivia’s memory to do so," he said.

*If you have been affected by this article, you can call the Samaritans on 116123 or visit Samaritans.org

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