Army instructors had 19 affairs with cadets before one took her life

An overhead shot of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

Sandhurst, a prestigious Army training academy, had a rather relaxed enforcement of alcohol policy, officials found (Picture: Getty)

The British Army has abandoned a “vulnerable” cadet who died by suicide, a damning report has revealed.

A service inquiry into the death of Olivia Perks found a culture of alochol and fling at the prestigious Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

Ms Perks, 21, killed herself at Berkshire’s training academy in February 2019 – and the many affairs that took place there have been counted as a factor in her death by Department of Defense officials.

Of the 30 trainees on her train, five are believed to have had affairs with older colleagues between 2018 and 2019, while another 14 were between employees and other trains.

Among them was Ms. Perks, who the panelists understood was having an affair with a member of the physical training staff.

The more than 300-page report detailed how many of the relationships involved senior male instructors and the female cadets they mentored.

This is a well-known secret among officer cadets, the report said, but it is not known in the chain of command.

The report stated: “This behavior undermined the [chain of command] and was completely unacceptable within a training facility, the rules and guidelines applicable to RMAS are designed to protect [cadets] and staff alike.

File photo dated 20/11/2006 of the old collage at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. A female officer cadet was found dead in an apparent suicide at the prestigious academy. PRESS ASSOCIATION photo. Issue date: Friday February 8, 2019. The unnamed 21-year-old was reportedly spotted in her room at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, Berkshire, on Wednesday. See PA story DEFENSE Sandhurst. Photo credit should read: Tim Ockenden/PA Wire

Officer cadet Olivia Perks died by suicide just a day after being talked down by her senior commanders (Image: PA)

“The panel believes that this recording revealed more than one relationship and numerous instances of inappropriate behavior. This shows sufficiently that the employees were willing to take the risk and break the rules and regulations.’

“In 2018 there were 19 relationships between staff and cadets. Other examples of inappropriate behavior included color sergeants [instructor] Boasting a parade of sexual relations with an officer cadet on the night of her commissioning.’

Panelists said there was a “complete misunderstanding of values” within the walls of Sandhurst, with the academy’s alcohol policy rarely being enforced and a “culture of staff fraternization”.

Ms Perks, from Kingswinford, West Midlands, received little to no support when she deliberately self-injured while she was “heavily intoxicated” on the morning of July 17, 2018 while outside the facility.

A witness said: “I believed this to be a serious suicide attempt. I think if I had left her in the room unattended that night [Ms Perks] would have killed himself.”

Ms Perks said in a harrowing letter that her restless behavior was due to a “combination of alcohol and past events in my life”.

However, panellists noted that she received flimsy support from army officials. Past events in her life were not examined and no counseling was offered to her.

The Department of Community Mental Health and senior officials confirmed she was “fit to return to exercise” on the day of her suicide attempt.

Ms. Perks has been enrolled in the Vulnerability Risk Management System and the College Risk Register and a Care Action Plan has been prepared.

When Ms Perks and other Bureau cadets returned to Sandhurst, the panel said it was “reasonable to assume that the seriousness of the various elements of the chain of command’s self-harm would have been immediately known”.

Panelists felt it was anything but. While panelists believe an investigation has been launched, Ms Perks received “subpar management and support”.

A few months later and two nights before her death, Ms. Perks “drank too much” and awoke in an instructor’s bed.

She admitted to the chain of command why she had not returned to barracks, prompting an investigation and she feared being fired.

Staff raised the alarm about Ms. Perks when she failed to show up for a skills training session the next day.

She was found “unresponsive” in her room before medical officials pronounced her dead at the scene.

Ms. Perks was just two weeks away from completing her 44-week course.

General Sir Patrick Sanders, the Chief of Staff, said: “We all feel Olivia’s loss deeply, but none do so more than those closest to her.

“I hope you can take some comfort in knowing that this report will step up action across the British Army.

“Significant changes have already been made to improve Sandhurst’s culture, but we will learn the lessons of this investigation. We owe it to Olivia’s memory.”

A statement released on behalf of Ms Perks’ family said: “Nothing compares to the pain my clients have experienced and continue to live with, having lost Olivia.

“They welcome any Department of Defense investigation that may shed more light on Olivia’s death, but still have a number of concerns and questions that they hope will be addressed as part of the investigation process.”

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Justin Scacco

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