Family torn apart by defence inquiry into Airman’s death
A REPORT into the death of a veteran has torn a Townsville-based family apart and left a father and son at complete odds with how the inquiry report should be handled.
The redacted report, submissions by the Counsel Assisting and other correspondence seen by the Townsville Bulletin examined any "Defence-related factors materially contributing to LAC Jamie Angus' death and any actions that might reasonably be taken by Defence to reduce the chance of a similar occurrence."
Jamie was found dead inside a shipping container, used to store personal equipment at his unit, the Monday night after his pregnant partner raised the alarm.
She became increasingly distressed when he didn't arrive home and went to the base.
On arrival she saw his vehicle in the car park but no others and the hangar had been locked up.
Jamie finished work at approximately 4.30 that afternoon and wasn't found until after 9pm just 20 metres from his desk.
He had been dead hours.
The deeply personal inquiry examined the circumstances and life of LAC Angus in the days and months leading up to his death, with the report concluding that the 23-year-old's chain of command acted appropriately and his death was due to issues in his personal life at the time.
It was found that Jamie did access help for feelings of depression, however his chain of command was not made aware due to medical in confidence.
However, there were shortcomings found to have occurred in the immediate aftermath of the death.
That included the failure to take a temperature of the body in order to accurately establish a time of death.
It also found there was a conflict of interest by the Inquiry Officer also acting as the Counsel Assisting and recommended it not be done in future after it became problematic and the Officer removed.
The unbearable pain of mystery continuing to shroud the death of his younger brother has sent Daniel Angus on a 12-year mission to have the report made public, in the hope there may be answers and accountability.
Daniel was a serving member in the Second Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment at Townsville at the time.
Daniel claims the ADF embarked on an orchestrated plan to cover up the truth, remove any accountability from senior officers who were aware that his brother was having mental health issues, and shift blame on to him.
The search for answers has torn the Angus family apart, with their father Peter Angus wanting the details to remain sealed in an effort to protect the dignity of Jamie, his son and partner.
One thing the estranged father and son do agree on - is that the administrative handling of the inquiry "was flawed from the start."
"The whole thing was flawed by defence, they stuffed it up unbelievably," Peter Angus said.
"Military law says you have 12 months to establish a commission of inquiry but after Jamie died we heard nothing so I emailed the Commanding Officer at the RAAF base and asked what the hell is going on?
"I got told "oh it's not my problem, that's the Chief of Defence Force's problem.
"There were many, many things that went on during Jamie's commission of inquiry that were absolutely wrong, it's hard to reconcile because so many people missed things."
The 31-year Army veteran said his son was entirely responsible for his own death but he couldn't understand how his family was treated in the aftermath, claiming their own welfare was never considered.
"We were never told our rights or what would happen," he said.
"The inquiry officer ended up being the counsel assisting and ended up being removed all together because that was a conflict from the beginning.
"I was a Warrant Officer, served for 31 years and two months later I'm burying my son but they don't care - no one offers the family support."
However for Jamie's older brother Daniel, accepting the report findings is not an option.
"I want this addressed, I want answers, I went in there with an open mind and got used as a scapegoat, it was corrupt," he said.
"I don't have a story, I have my truth, why would my father not want this to be made public? They failed my brother.
"My brother's inquiry wasn't about what went wrong, it was completely about the protecting the Commonwealth."
If you need support, Open Arms offers Veterans & Families Counselling provides free and confidential support for current and ex-serving ADF personnel and their families.
Help is available 24/7 on 1800 011 046 (international: +61 1800 011 046 or +61 8 8241 4546) or visit www.OpenArms.gov.au
Originally published as Family torn apart by defence inquiry into Airman's death