A coronial inquiry has started today into the shooting death of Australian security guard Chris Betts, who was found dead at the Baghdad Embassy in 2016.
A coronial inquiry has started today into the shooting death of Australian security guard Chris Betts, who was found dead at the Baghdad Embassy in 2016.

Baghdad embassy death: No signs guard was depressed

AN inquest into the death of an Australian security guard from a gunshot wound at the Baghdad embassy has heard he did not leave a suicide note and did not indicate he was depressed when talking to family.

On the first day of the coronial inquiry in Brisbane today, an Australian Federal Police officer who investigated the shooting death of guard Chris Betts, 34, told the court that an examination of Betts' mobile phone showed no signs Mr Betts was depressed.

Detective Sergeant William Freeman, from the AFP, told the hearing before state coroner Terry Ryan, that Betts' family told him they were concerned about their son's colleague Sun McKay being in the room when Betts died.

"Like most families because there was no suicide note they were concerned that Sun killed Chris," Det Sgt Freeman told the inquiry.

Chris Betts and his wife Angela on holidays in South America in 2010. Picture: Supplied
Chris Betts and his wife Angela on holidays in South America in 2010. Picture: Supplied

But Det Sgt Freeman said he believed the forensic evidence showed that Betts died from a "self-inflicted gunshot wound".

Det Sgt Freeman said he was called to fly to Baghdad after Betts was found dead with a shot to his head in his colleagues room in the early hours of May 12, 2016, with a Glock 17 on a nearby table.

Chris Betts in Afghanistan in 2007.
Chris Betts in Afghanistan in 2007.

The gun was issued to Betts' colleague, Mr McKay.

Betts was working for security firm Unity Resources Group at the Baghdad Embassy when he was found in McKay's room, which was part of the embassy compound.

The hearing will hear from 21 witnesses.

Det Sgt Freeman told the court that some standard forensic evidence collection procedures were not followed by staff on the ground following Betts' death, such as testing McKay's hands for gunshot residue and asking McKay - who had Betts' blood on him - not to shower until he could undergo forensic testing.

Det Sgt Freeman said that it was not ideal but understandable given it took three days for him to arrive in Iraq, and McKay would have been asked to not shower for that time.

McKay was in the room with Betts when he was shot, and he tried to resuscitate him. Both Betts and McKay are former Australian army soldiers.

Det Sgt Freeman said he was initially told that he would be investigating a suicide at the embassy.

Sarah Lane, counsel assisting the coroner, told the court that her office had tried to contact Unity Resources Group but had been unsuccessful.

Betts' blood alcohol reading was unable to be reliably determined because of the delays to testing his blood after death, the hearing heard, and two mugs in his room were not tested for alcohol residue.

Chris Betts’ parents Rae and Colin Betts arrive at the Brisbane Coroners Court for the inquest into their son’s death. Picture: AAP Image/Glenn Hunt
Chris Betts’ parents Rae and Colin Betts arrive at the Brisbane Coroners Court for the inquest into their son’s death. Picture: AAP Image/Glenn Hunt

The embassy was "dry" - no alcohol was permitted - but empty alcohol bottles were found in the room where Betts died, and Det Sgt Freeman told the hearing that there were "more than a few people drinking at the embassy when they shouldn't be".

Det Sgt Freeman said there were reports that Betts' personality had changed after he took part in a trial of anti-malarial drug Mefloquine in 2001 while serving in the Australian Army and before deploying to East Timor.

However Sgt Freeman said that when he examined records, it appeared Betts' was given a placebo.

Betts served in the elite 4RAR infantry regiment between 1999 and 2002, and was posted to East Timor for seven months in 2001.

He reported troubles with sleeplessness while taking the drug, and told Army brass that he didn't wish to continue taking it because his "section commander states that any study drug by the army cant be good for you".

He later left to work for private contractors where in 2009 he suffered PTSD from a traumatic event when his car rolled after an improvised explosive device detonated while on a security patrol.

Betts' parents and sister are present in the inquest hearing in Brisbane today.

The Suicide Call Back service is on 1300 659 467.



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