Family outrage at ADF suicide ‘cover up’
A former soldier who claims he was threatened with jail if he spoke out about his younger brother's suicide is still fighting 12 years later to have the report into the death made public.
Leading aircraftman Jamie Angus took his own life at RAAF base Amberley on May 11, 2009.
His brother 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 his family.
"On the day of his passing, he was stressed out. He was with his colleagues in the lunch area and they were giving him a little stick due to his stress, making fun of him," Mr Angus told The Sunday Telegraph.
"When he said he was going to take his life, instead of acting on it they called him out.
"He got up and never was seen or accounted for again."
His pregnant partner became distressed when he didn't arrive home on time and went to the base. She saw his vehicle in the car park. There were no other cars and the hangar had been locked up. She panicked and rang Daniel.
"I rang his phone again and again, then a police officer answered it," Daniel said.
"In the background I heard his partner screaming. I asked where my brother was. He told me he was gone.
"My brother was found hanging inside a shipping container that was used to store personal equipment inside the hangar."
The ADF held a Commission of Inquiry into the death of 23-year-old leading aircraftman Jamie Angus in 2011.
His brother received a copy of the redacted report on April 2, 2012. Missing were vital pieces of evidence.
"The systemic issues and fact he was never accounted for before knock-off is embarrassing to the ADF," Mr Angus said.
"They ignored all the red flags. He died during work hours and they just knocked off, leaving him. His car was parked in a visible spot, which would flag the people doing lock-up to check on him, but they didn't. And none of it has come out. I was told I could get five years jail if I spoke to the press."
Mr Angus is calling for the report to be made public.
Senator Jacqui Lambie said: "It reeks of cover-up. Will the new commissioner on suicides have the power to obtain these military suicide reports in full, unredacted? Because if she does not have the power to do so, then what is she doing there?"
Ex-infantry and special forces officer Michael Von Berg, who supported Mr Angus though the ordeal, said inquiries of this nature should be conducted by someone independent.
"There is a natural, and I don't think wilful, but a penchant to absolve the ADF of any blame," he said.
"The same people potentially might be responsible for investigating themselves."
Mr Von Berg said Mr Angus had every right to call for the report to be made public.
"His brother tragically committed suicide on base and obviously it's a very complex issue but in this report - basically blaming the family - that is a disgrace."
Defence did not respond specifically to the allegations however a defence spokesman said mental health and suicide are issues that affect everyone in the community and there is often no single cause.
"It is a national tragedy that more than 3000 Australians take their own lives each year," the spokesman said.
"When it comes to ADF and veteran suicide, the only acceptable number is zero and the only acceptable number for the Australian people is zero.
"Addressing the tragedy of suicide is a national priority and Defence is committed to ensuring serving and ex-serving ADF members have access to support, especially those who are vulnerable or at risk."
Veterans' Affairs and Defence Personnel Minister Darren Chester said the government is committed to putting our veterans, Australian Defence Force personnel and their families first "and continues to invest significantly in mental health".
Originally published as Family outrage at ADF suicide 'cover up'