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

‘Loose cannon’ killed security guard, inquest hears

HOURS after an off-duty private security guard working at the Australian embassy in Baghdad was fatally shot in the head, a former colleague texted embassy staff to claim that the former soldier had been "killed" by the only witness to the shooting, an inquest has heard.

Tanya Ferrai, a former nurse for security contractor Unity Resources Group (URG), texted to tell the staffer that witness and fellow security contractor Sun McKay was "a loose cannon" who must have "killed" his mate, former commando Chris Betts, 34 on May 12, 2016.

"So Sun killed him. Chris Betts would never commit suicide," Ferrai texted the embassy staffer, in messages shown on the second day of the inquiry before state coroner Terry Ryan.

"Trust me. Sun is a loose cannon and very smart man. Make sure Sun is drug tested. We all know (come (SIC) knowledge" the text from Ms Ferrai said.

 

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

 

Ms Ferrai also alleged that "URG management" had engaged in "fraudulent changing and deleting (of) medical and security documents", according to an email Ms Ferrai sent just days after Betts death, tendered in court.

Betts was shot with McKay's Glock handgun, as he sat in McKay's dorm room in a building which was part of the Australian embassy compound in Baghdad, the inquiry heard.

McKay had been drinking alcohol, which was banned, and Betts may also have been drinking as they played Call of Duty on an Xbox, the hearing was told.

An Australian Federal Police investigator found that Betts died as a result of a "self-inflicted gunshot wound", but Betts' family told the investigator that they "were concerned that Sun killed Chris".

The inquest heard McKay was previously given a "last warning" by his employer URG in 2011 over drinking while on duty and two other URG staff were sacked for drinking while at the base and he made a habit of "playing with his weapon, eg loading and cocking and pointing an actioned weapon at people while under the influence".

"Management at the time knew about his drinking and irresponsible handling of weapons and never done (SIC) anything about it," the email tendered to the inquiry states.

 

Former Australian soldier Sun McKay.
Former Australian soldier Sun McKay.

 

Ms Ferrai stated in the email that she could support her claims of rampant use of alcohol on the "dry" embassy grounds, as well as "uppers and downers", horse drug Ketamine, Valium, Ritalin and Codeine by URG staff with documentary proof.

"URG seem to 'forget, omit or they miraculously disappear/get deleted' not to mention they lie and deny these issues with fabricated excuses," Ms Ferrai states in the email.

"I took a copy of all my files, reports and documents before I left Iraq," Ms Ferrai states in the email sent in May 2016.

She claimed that a letter outlining these concerns was sent to the shadow foreign minister by more than 40 URG staff in December 2015.

The inquiry also heard that the Department of Foreign Affairs security staff had regular meetings with URG's security for its embassy staff, and Anthony Hughes, DFAT regional security officer, told the inquiry he was "surprised" to see a gun in McKay's room following the shooting.

 

Rae and Colin Betts of Hervey Bay pose with a picture of their son Chris Betts and his wife Angela. Picture: John Wilson/The Australian
Rae and Colin Betts of Hervey Bay pose with a picture of their son Chris Betts and his wife Angela. Picture: John Wilson/The Australian

 

In other evidence a former URG security manager Darren Lovett testified that he gave the formal directive for security staff to keep their high-powered guns in their dorm rooms because protesting Iraqi civilians had breached the Baghdad compound's "green zone".

Allowing the security staff to keep their weapons in their rooms - and not locking them away in an armoury - was in breach of URG's "standard operating procedures" and of Iraqi law, the inquiry heard.

The hearing continues.