Female soldier, 19, took her own life after 'intense period' of sexual harassment by boss

4 October 2023, 08:20 | Updated: 4 October 2023, 10:02

Gunner Jaysley-Louise Beck died last December
Gunner Jaysley-Louise Beck died last December. Picture: Facebook

By Kit Heren

A 19-year-old soldier took her own life at a military base after an 'intense period' of sexual harassment by her boss.

Royal Artillery Gunner Jaysley-Louise Beck, 19, was found dead at the military base in Larkhill near Salisbury on December 15 2021.

An army investigation found that she had suffered "an intense period of unwelcome behaviour", adding that it was "almost certain this was a causal factor in her death".

The behaviour lasted for two months leading up to Gunner Beck's death, according to the investigation, which is set to be released at midday 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."

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Royal Artillery Gunner Jaysley-Louise Beck
Royal Artillery Gunner Jaysley-Louise Beck. Picture: Family handout

No official inquest date into Gunner Beck's death has been set yet.

Her boss, who is not named in the report, wanted a relationship with Gunner Beck, but she did not share his feelings and had a boyfriend.

The boss sent over 1,000 WhatsApp messages and voicemails in October 2021, says the report, which has been seen early by the BBC. This rose to 3,500 in November.

His messages were often controlling in nature, and he frequently tried to work out if she was alone. He often let her know that he couldn't bear the thought of her being with someone else.

Gunner Beck thought of her boss as a friend and tried to be understanding of his advances. But weeks before her death she contacted him to say "I can't handle it any more. It's weighing me down."

Jaysley-Louise. Picture: Family handout

Her mother Leighann McCready said: "You think the easiest solution is to block him but you can't just block your boss." Her parents and sister said they could often tell the unwelcome effect of her boss' behaviour on her.

Ms McCready said: "She was always down. She was fed up with his behaviour. It started ruining a job that she really enjoyed doing."

The boss was often responsible for giving her tasks, and would often make sure they were working together. Not long before she died, she left a hotel where they were both staying because of her behaviour.

Gunner Beck, who joined the army at the age of 16, called her father and had to be collected "trembling and shaking" by a friend.

She added in a separate message: "The truth is, I'm struggling to deal with all this."

Ms McCready said her daughter had been reluctant to report the sexual harassment, because a previous time she had reported a sexual assault by another officer had not resulted in anything.

Describing the incident, Ms McCready said the man put his hands between her daughter's legs and tried to take hold of her around her neck. "She shouted: 'Get off me, Sir'," the bereaved mother said.

"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."

Someone else reported the incident. The Army 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."

The man was given a minor punishment and told to write her a letter of apology. It acknowledges this "may have influenced her failure to report other events that happened subsequently".

Ms McCready said: "She was saying you don't get listened to, so what's the point? She thought she would be seen as a female troublemaker."

She added: "This is something my daughter would have had to have carried for the rest of her life."

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."

The army's report claims that issues with Gunner Beck's family, including a bereavement, were partly responsible for her death. Her family reject this assertion. "I think they are trying to put a lot on her family," Ms McCready said.

"They have said that we are partly to blame for the passing of our daughter."

Gunner Beck had not been diagnosed with mental health conditions and had not contacted the army for support.

The report adds: "It was commonplace amongst a significant minority of soldiers within Larkhill Garrison."

Ms McCready said she regretted her daughter's choice of career.

Touching her daughter's uniform, she said: "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". They added that it would be inappropriate to comment further until after the inquest.

The army's report said measures to tackle sexual harassment were introduced in November 2022.

Gunner Beck had completed her initial training at the Army Foundation College in Harrogate before continuing her military career at Larkhill in 2020.

Her family said in a tribute after her death: "Jaysley is a loving and caring person who would go above and beyond to help anyone in a less fortunate position than herself.

"If there is ever a person who needs help, you could always count on Jaze to be there.

"Her compassion for others and her ability to light up the room putting a smile on anybody's face is immeasurable."

Those feeling distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org in the UK. In the US, call the Samaritans branch in your area or 1 (800) 273-TALK

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