Former soldier died of self-inflicted gunshot wound, inquest hears

The Sydney Morning Herald 1 month ago

An elite former soldier protecting Australian embassy staff in Iraq put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger, an inquest has heard.

Christopher Betts, 34, was employed as a private security guard in Baghdad when he died from the gunshot wound on May 12, 2016.

The Australian embassy in Baghdad, Iraq.

An inquest into his death has heard Mr Betts was off duty and in the embassy's living quarters with a colleague when he picked up a Glock handgun and loaded it.

Sun McKay, who was dozing in the same room at the time, later told Australian police he heard the magazine click into place in his gun, then Mr Betts sat on a couch and put the weapon to his head.

"It's time to play clear or not clear," he told Mr McKay according to police interview transcripts, the inquest before coroner Terry Ryan in Brisbane heard on Monday.

It also heard Mr McKay warned Mr Betts the weapon in his hand was loaded, then it discharged.

Australian Federal Police Detective Sergeant William Freeman arrived at the Baghdad compound four days later to investigate.

Detective Sergeant William Freeman leaves the Brisbane Coroners Court on Monday.

He said Mr Betts' parents – who were at the inquest on Monday – had feared Mr McKay had been involved since there was no suicide note.

But he told the inquest he believed the evidence pointed to a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

He also said his team found bloodstains on a couch in the room where Mr Betts' had been playing the video game Call of Duty.

"There was (also) some blood on the floor where they had been working on Chris ... there were several shoe marks in and out (of the room) that were also in the blood," he told Brisbane Coroners Court.

Rae (left) and Colin Betts arrive at the Brisbane Coroners Court on Monday.

The court heard Mr Betts and Mr McKay had likely been drinking.

"The version (he) gave us was that after Chris was shot he jumped up, tried to render some first aid but realised he needed to get some help," Detective Sergeant Freeman said.

After Mr McKay raised the alarm, other security contractors, who were also there to protect DFAT staff, helped drag Mr Betts onto the floor outside the room to begin first aid before a nurse arrived to take over.

Staff maintained CPR for about an hour while they waited for a helicopter to transport Mr Betts to a hospital, Detective Sergeant Freeman said.

"When (it) got there, a doctor from the American embassy came and said: 'Look, Chris is deceased. There's no point continuing'," he said.

Mr Ryan is exploring whether Mr Betts' employer, Unity Resources Group, had appropriate safety and weapons-handling procedures in place and whether the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade had adequate oversight of the company.

The inquest continues on Tuesday.

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