Soldier with PTSD was drinking during ops

The inquest into a PTSD-suffering soldier's death has heard evidence from an army chaplain.
The inquest into a PTSD-suffering soldier's death has heard evidence from an army chaplain.

A soldier deployed to Iraq despite the army's knowledge of his poor mental health, substance abuse and violent tendencies had smuggled alcohol onto a base in mouthwash bottles, an inquest has heard.

Sergeant Ian Turner took his own life in his Sydney home in July 2017, after longstanding difficulties with post-traumatic stress disorder and the abuse of alcohol and illicit drugs.

The commando had completed seven deployments in East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq, including two after he was diagnosed with mental health problems.

Giving evidence at the Sydney inquest on Tuesday, a regiment chaplain said the chain of command was "absolutely" aware of many of Sgt Turner's issues before his final two deployments in 2015 and 2016.

When assuming his position in 2014, the padre - who cannot be named for legal reasons - was given a handover by his predecessor.

That handover included details about Sgt Turner's history of domestic violence and concerns he was self-medicating his PTSD with alcohol.

While he didn't remember the exact conversations, the padre said he was sure he'd relayed his own concerns about Sgt Turner's drinking and ongoing PTSD symptoms as well.

"The chain of command would have been aware of my concerns."

Still, Sgt Turner was deemed medically fit to undertake his first deployment to Iraq in 2015, after which the chaplain again raised concerns.

There had been "hearsay" from other members of the unit that Sgt Turner had been getting vodka sent over to him in mouthwash bottles during the operation.

"Knowing how I do business, I probably would have (reported that to the chain of command), because that's a significant thing," the chaplain said.

"If you're drinking on operations, it can endanger the lives of other people that you're working with."

But Sgt Turner was again approved to be deployed in mid-2016.

The inquest has previously heard that final deployment was only made possible after a major intervened to have a refusal of medical clearance reconsidered.

The coronial probe, overseen by Deputy State Coroner Harriet Grahame, will consider whether the defence force appropriately managed Sgt Turner's welfare in the lead-up to his death.

The inquest comes as a royal commission into veteran suicides is set to begin, to investigate why the rates of suicide for ex-services personnel are much higher than in the broader Australian population.

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Australian Associated Press