Question marks over gunshot wound in bodyguard’s death
A QUEENSLAND bodyguard shot with his mate's gun while off-duty at the Australian embassy in Iraq was allegedly shot in the rear left side of his head, but he was right handed, an inquest has heard.
On the third day of an inquest into the death of Chris Betts, 34, who was found dead in his colleagues room in the early hours of May 12, 2016, his best friend told the court that when he saw Betts's corpse, he believed the wounds indicated he had been shot in the left rear side of his head.
This was at apparently odds with initial reports from Betts' employer, security contractor Unity Resources Group (URG), and the only witness to the shooting, mate Sun McKay, that Betts had committed suicide, the inquiry heard.
Fellow embassy bodyguard Patrick O'Keefe told the inquiry via Skype that he saw the "entry wound" in the left side of his mate's bloody scalp and the ugly exit wound on the right side, about a month after Betts' died, when he helped escort Betts' body to an Iraqi medical centre for an autopsy.
In earlier evidence Mr O'Keefe said that immediately after Betts was shot he heard McKay moan and yell then say: "I don't know why he did it".
Mr O'Keefe told the inquest he believed McKay was "insinuating" that Betts had killed himself, but Mr O'Keefe's personal view within seconds of learning his friend was dead was that was "everything pointed to Sun (McKay) making a mistake and shooting Chris".
Mr O'Keefe testified that after seeing Betts corpse, URG management told the security workers "not to speculate on what happened" to Betts.
He said that within hours of Betts' death URG security manager Darren Lovett briefed staff that the only witness to the fatal shooting -- his mate Sun McKay -- "had done nothing wrong".
This statement was made even before the Australian Federal Police (AFP) had arrived to start their investigation, the inquest heard.
Bett's family told the AFP that they did not believe their son committed suicide as he had not left a note, and had no history of depression.
If Betts' death is ruled a suicide his family are not eligible to an insurance payout from URG's insurers, but if his death is ruled a misadventure they are eligible, the court heard.
In other evidence Mr O'Keefe, who is now a security contractor at the Australian embassy in Afghanistan, said that Betts had confided in him one month before his death that McKay was "self medicating" with Valium or other prescription drugs, and that McKay "f***s around with guns" by loading and unloading them at inappropriate times.
Mr O'Keefe recalled an incident on April 1, 2016 when he drank gin in McKay's dorm room with Betts and colleague Ben Turner.
Mr O"Keefe told the inquiry that McKay had pointed his Glock pistol at Betts' head and asked him: "Do you trust me?" then fired the weapon.
Mr O"Keefe said McKay repeated this with Mr Turner's chest and himself while "giving the impression he might use a live round" in the handgun.
"It was definitely unsafe, it was definately unprofessional," Mr O'Keefe told state coroner Terry Ryan.
But another witness, former team leader Simon Hansen said he knew McKay for years and he had "never had a problem with him".
"He was a pretty good operator," Mr Hansen told the court.
Mr O"Keefe also recalled another unsettling incident with McKay at a firing range five years earlier where McKay used "strange" shooting positions to fire his gun, including on his back almost flat with his head raised and between his feet and on his side.
The hearing continues. Mr McKay is due to give evidence on Friday.
The AFP told the court that URG had said they would like to assist in the investigation of Betts' death but ultimately never provided any help.
Sarah Lane, counsel assisting the coroner, told the court on Monday that her office had tried to contact Unity Resources Group but had been unsuccessful.