A female teenage soldier is believed to have taken her own life after relentless sexual harassment by one of her bosses, an Army investigation has found.
Royal Artillery Gunner Jaysley Beck, 19, was found dead at Larkhill Camp in Wiltshire in December 2021.
A service inquiry report, seen by the BBC, describes “an intense period of unwelcome behaviour”.
“It is almost certain this was a causal factor in her death,” the report found.
The behaviour from her immediate boss, continued over a period of two months preceding her death, says the report, published on Wednesday.
“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 well-being,” the report continues.
Thousands of messages
Speaking exclusively to the BBC, Gunner Beck’s mother said her daughter had been “down” after months of harassment.
An inquest date to officially determine how Gunner Beck died has yet to be set.
The Army investigation found her boss, who, like everyone in the report, is not named, wanted a relationship with her but she had a boyfriend and did not reciprocate his feelings.
It describes how in October 2021 her boss sent her more than 1,000 WhatsApp messages and voicemails. The following month this increased to more than 3,500.
The messages involved controlling behaviour. He constantly sought reassurance she was on her own and made it clear he could not bear the thought of her being with someone else.
Jaysley Beck had initially regarded her boss as a friend and tried to be understanding, but in the weeks before her death she messaged him to say: “I can’t handle it any more. It’s weighing me down.”
The family’s lawyer, Emma Norton, from the Centre for Military Justice, said: “It’s very significant that the Army is admitting that the sexual harassment this young woman was subjected to in the months before she died was a causal factor in her death. I am not aware of another case where this has been admitted. This is obviously of enormous concern to the family.”
Two years ago, a report by MPs found women in the armed forces who are victims of harassment and serious sexual assault – among other acts – were being “denied justice” by a “woefully inadequate” military complaints process.
The Army investigation into Gunner Beck’s death details how her line manager was responsible for allocating tasks and would ensure they were working together. She expressed fears he was tracking her movements via her mobile phone.
The week before her death she left a hotel where they were both staying on a work trip because of his behaviour. She called her father in distress and was collected by a friend who found her “trembling and shaking”, according to evidence given to the investigation.
In a message, she told her boss she felt trapped by his actions and her family were worried. She said she had been reduced to tears, adding: “The truth is, I’m struggling to deal with all this.”
Gunner Beck joined the Army when she was 16 and was proud to be a soldier.
Her close-knit family, from Oxen Park in Cumbria, have seen her boss’s messages and have told the BBC the “generous and kind-hearted” teenager said she had not wanted to hurt her boss’s feelings.
Gunner Beck’s mum, Leighann McCready, says: “You think the easiest solution is to block him but you can’t just block your boss.”
Ms McCready, Jaysley’s father, Anthony, and her older sister Emilli, were constantly in touch with her and could see the effect of her boss’s unwelcome attention.
“She was always down,” says Ms McCready. “She was fed up with his behaviour. It started ruining a job that she really enjoyed doing.”
Ms McCready says she had urged her daughter to report her boss’s behaviour, but she was reluctant because of the way the Army had dealt with her complaint of a sexual assault by another of her seniors a few months before. This happened late at night in a bar at an Army training centre. The report describes how Gunner Beck left the bar and hid in toilets.
Ms McCready vividly remembers her daughter’s call the next morning, recounting what had happened: “She said he put his hands between her legs and tried to grab her from around the neck. She shouted: ‘Get off me, Sir’.
“That night she slept in her car. She was afraid that if she had gone to bed he would have come into her room. She phoned one of her friends who was on guard duty during the night and said please stay on the phone until I fall asleep and just listen and if you hear anything, just ring for help.”
While Gunner Beck did not report what had happened to her, someone else did.
The report says: “The chain of command took the incident seriously, but the evidence suggests that the correct reporting process was not followed. As a result, the discipline advice was based on a version of events from which certain key details appear to have been accidentally omitted.”
It says the man involved was given a minor sanction and told to write the teenager a letter of apology. It acknowledges this “may have influenced her failure to report other events that happened subsequently”.
Ms McCready stresses this was the case. “She was saying you don’t get listened to, so what’s the point? She thought she would be seen as a female troublemaker.”
The family have seen the letter of apology from the warrant officer. In it, the man who had sexually assaulted her told Ms Beck: “If ever there is anything I can do for you, my door will always be open.”
Ms McCready dismisses this offer as “absolutely disgusting”, adding: “This is something my daughter would have had to have carried for the rest of her life.”
‘Vile’ and ‘degrading’
The report says family issues, including a bereavement, were also responsible for Gunner Beck’s death. Her family are baffled by this and reject it. “I think they are trying to put a lot on her family,” says Ms McCready.
“They have said that we are partly to blame for the passing of our daughter.”
The report says Gunner Beck had no diagnosed mental-health conditions and had not sought welfare support from anyone in the Army.
The inquiry into her death heard evidence from witnesses about inappropriate sexual behaviour by male soldiers towards their female colleagues at Larkhill.
The report says: “It was commonplace amongst a significant minority of soldiers within Larkhill Garrison.” One witness described routinely receiving comments from male soldiers that she described as “vile” and “degrading”.
The report says measures to tackle this kind of behaviour were introduced as part of a new policy for the armed forces in November 2022.
Asked whether she regrets her daughter’s career choice, without hesitation, her mum replies: “Yes”.
She accuses military personnel of a lack of compassion when the family wanted to spend time in her room as they gathered her belongings. She says they also tried, unsuccessfully, to dictate how her funeral should be arranged.
She says every day she speaks to her daughter “who would light up a room”.
Touching her daughter’s Army cap and trousers, she explains: “These are what give me comfort. I hold these and they are a nice memory, but I shouldn’t have just been left with these. I should have had my daughter walking back through the door.”
An Army spokesperson said: “Our thoughts and sympathies remain with Gunner Jaysley-Louise Beck’s family and friends at this difficult time”, and adds that it would be inappropriate to comment further until after the inquest.