Betts
Betts

Former soldier’s death ‘could have been prevented’

A CORONER has found the mysterious death of Christopher Betts at the Australian Embassy Compound in Iraq was likely a "tragic accident".

The former soldier was working as a private security contractor in May 2016 when he died from a gunshot wound to his head after a night of drinking alcohol and playing video games with a colleague.

State Coroner Terry Ryan this morning handed down his findings into the tragedy and said it was likely that if Mr Betts' employer Unity Resources Group (URG) had enforced its own alcohol and weapons handlings procedures, the death could have been avoided.

" … I do conclude that, had the SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) in place at the time of Christopher's death been complied with by contractors and enforced by URG management, Mr Betts' death could have been prevented," the coroner found.

Chris Betts in Afghanistan in 2007. Picture: John Wilson
Chris Betts in Afghanistan in 2007. Picture: John Wilson

Mr Betts, 34, had been due to return home to Hervey Bay the day after his death as part of his contract in which he worked for eight weeks before coming home for four weeks.

While early investigators questioned whether Mr Betts' death could have been a suicide, his heartbroken family were adamant that was not the case.

"I am unable to determine exactly how this happened, or why," the coroner said.

"However, I conclude that it is most likely to have been a tragic accident which occurred while Mr Betts and (his colleague) were significantly affected by alcohol they consumed as they were discussing plans to return to Australia the next day.

 

Chris Betts’ parents Rae and Colin speak outside the Coroner's Court in Brisbane today. Picture: AAP/Dan Peled
Chris Betts’ parents Rae and Colin speak outside the Coroner's Court in Brisbane today. Picture: AAP/Dan Peled

 

"It is clear from the evidence given at this inquest that the SOPs and contract clauses which were in place were not always adhered to by URG staff or enforced by URG management.

"Enforcement of the SOPs and dry contract by management was inconsistent, resulting in a culture where excessive drinking and unsafe weapons handling practices by contractors was effectively ignored."

Originally published as Former soldier's death 'could have been prevented'


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