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Defence ignored warnings of commando’s history of domestic violence and alcohol abuse, inquest hears

By Dan Oakes

The wife of an Australian commando who killed himself in 2017 repeatedly raised concerns about his violence towards her and excessive alcohol consumption, but he was still deployed overseas.

An inquest into the death of Corporal Ian Turner has been told by Joanna Turner, Corporal Turner’s wife, that two Army chaplains were aware that he was violent towards her.

One chaplain even came to the Turner’s house to intervene on occasions when Corporal Turner was violent.

The inquest, held this week in Sydney, is expected to turn a spotlight on the management of Australia’s special forces troops during years of constant deployment to Afghanistan and Iraq.

A non-publication order suppressing Corporal Turner’s identity was lifted after an application by the ABC.

Corporal Turner was a highly experienced veteran of the 2nd Commando Regiment who deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq a number of times. He took his own life in Australia in July, 2017.

‘He was very aggressive and violent at home’

Ms Turner also said that she wrote a letter to Corporal Turner’s commanding officer in 2014 to raise concerns about what was happening within her family, and later met with the commanding officer at a cafe to discuss Corporal Turner’s case.

“I just think my intent was to raise awareness of what was occurring. He didn’t leave me thinking that anything in particular was going to happen,” Ms Turner told the inquest.

“What would have been appropriate was to have the way he was interacting with people on a general level addressed.

“He was very insubordinate, he was very aggressive and violent at home, he was a power unto himself. There were no boundaries on Ian.”

Corporal Turner spent a stint in a psychiatric hospital in 2014 and was also subjected to an apprehended violence order due to domestic violence against his wife.

“When I went forward and got the AVO I was harshly criticised and shamed. Instead of anybody providing my family with any level of support, pretty much I was just cut and not told anything,” Ms Turner said.

“I was left feeling like I was crazy or I was making up lies to get Ian in trouble.”

Despite the AVO and committal to the psychiatric hospital, Corporal Turner was deployed to Iraq in 2015 and again in 2016.

On the second deployment, a practical joke involving a pornographic playing card led to disciplinary action against Corporal Turner and he was subsequently demoted, which left him feeling stressed and demoralised.

Ms Turner said that her husband and his colleagues boasted about being able to manipulate the mental health professionals who were treating them.

“I was present in conversations when Ian was speaking with colleagues who also saw the same treating psychiatrist and they would share or compare notes on how to get [the psychiatrist] to do or say certain things,” she said.

“They were sitting at my kitchen bench and they were laughing about how they could get certain medical professionals to make certain decisions, so the way that they sat, the way that they spoke, the way they presented, the clothes they wore, the way they did their hair, the two of them were comparing notes.”

The inquest continues tomorrow, when Corporal Turner’s commanding officer is expected to give evidence.

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