Senior security staff at the Australian embassy in Iraq turned a blind eye to the drinking culture among contractors despite it being forbidden.
Contractors were also ordered to ignore operating procedures and stow their weapons in their personal living quarters, an inquest in the death of an elite former soldier has heard.
Christopher Betts, 34, worked as a private security contractor in the Baghdad embassy when he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head on 12 May in 2016.
Investigators were unable to determine if the death was caused by misadventure or suicide following a night of drinking with colleagues, the Brisbane Coroners Court has heard.
On Tuesday, one of the men Mr Betts’ was drinking with before he died, Benjamin Turner, told the inquest managers turned a blind eye “so long as you didn’t rub it their face”
“It was fairly common early on in that 2015 and 2016 … most guys would be sensible and have a couple of quiet drinks in their room,” he said.
“For the most part, so long as you didn’t get caught red-handed or running around like an idiot I felt their culture there was that it was acceptable.”
The inquest has heard that even though the security firm’s contract was a “dry” agreement forbidding the consumption of alcohol in Iraq, some workers regularly drank.
This was usually purchased in the Green Zone and transferred into plastic water bottles before being brought back to the embassy, he said.
Mr Turner detailed one incident where a contractor was so drunk he almost fell out of a vehicle on his way to the Baghdad airport.
He agreed that after a pay dispute in late 2015 and the renewal of the security firm’s contract with DFAT, alcohol consumption became less acceptable.
Some contractors, including Mr Betts and Sun McKay, continued to drink, however.
Earlier the security firm’s project manager, Darren Lovett, said that in the weeks leading up to the shooting he ordered contractors to keep their weapons in their rooms when off duty.
It was a direct contravention of Iraqi law and the firm’s operating procedures at the embassy.
Mr Lovett told the inquest that prior to Mr Betts’ death, Iraqi protesters had breached the Green Zone security zone where the embassy was located.
He detailed how live rounds had whistled overhead as the security team lined up to retrieve their weapons from the embassy armoury in a bid to prepare themselves to protect the staff.
He said he made the order due to that delay.
“We were there to ensure the safety and security of DFAT staff.”
The Betts family’s lawyer suggested that if not for that order Mr Betts would still be alive.
“The operators are highly trained and well qualified and I didn’t take into account there would be some misadventure occurring with weapons,” Mr Lovett replied.
The inquest continues on Wednesday.
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