Coroner says elite former soldier’s death a ‘tragic accident’

The death of an elite former soldier at Australia’s embassy in Iraq was likely a “tragic accident”, a Queensland coroner has found.

Coroner Terry Ryan on Monday handed down his findings into the mysterious death of Christopher Betts, 34, four years ago.

Mr Betts was working as a private security guard in the Baghdad embassy when he died on May 12, 2016.

Mr Ryan told the Brisbane Coroners Court he could not make a ruling the death was suicide.

“I’m unable to find that Mr Betts intended to take his own life,” he said. “It is likely that Mr Betts’ death was a tragic accident.”

The inquest heard from the only witness to the bodyguard’s death, Mr Betts’ colleague Sun McKay.

He told the inquest he and Mr Betts had a quiet night after a few drinks and discussed Mr Betts’ dog, car and Fraser Island before they were to fly out of Iraq on break the next day.

Mr McKay told Australian police he was dozing when Mr Betts picked up and loaded a pistol before putting it to his head.

The inquest also heard from multiple former United Resources Group employees who said their managers tolerated a culture of drinking despite the contract with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade requiring being “dry”.

Australian Federal Police found Mr Betts’ death was self-inflicted, but could not determine if the cause was suicide or misadventure.

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