DEFENCE chief Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston has denied there has been any cover-up over the death of Private Jake Kovco in Iraq, saying all would be revealed in a board of inquiry report.
New questions surround the circumstances of Private Kovco's death after the government today said the soldier wasn't cleaning his weapon when he was fatally shot in Baghdad â€“ apparently contradicting an explanation immediately after his death.
After last Friday's shooting, Defence Minister Brendan Nelson said Private Kovco was maintaining his gun when it discharged, fatally wounding him.
But today Dr Nelson said:"He wasn't in fact cleaning his weapon."
Air Chief Marshal Houston said today he did not want to canvass the circumstances in which Private Kovco was shot with his own Browning pistol.
He said defence had conducted a quick assessment of the causes of Private Kovco's death which confirmed it appeared to be a tragic accident.
"We are now preparing the terms of reference and assembling the right sort of people to conduct the board of inquiry," he told reporters.
"We will get to the bottom of what happened. After the report is published, we will consult with the next of kin before we share the findings with you.
"There is no intention to do anything than be completely open with you once we complete the inquiry."
Both defence and the government have described what happened to Private Kovco as a tragic accident but explanations as to what happened have changed.
"I'm advised that the soldier was simply handling his weapon, and maintaining it as soldiers are required to do, and for some unexplained reason, the firearm discharged, and a bullet unfortunately entered the soldier's head, and several hours after the injury, despite receiving the best of medical care, he unfortunately passed away," Dr Nelson told reporters on Saturday.
It later emerged that the accident occurred in the soldier's accommodation room in Baghdad and that two other soldiers were present at the time.
"He had returned to his room with two of his mates. They had been out on patrol. He was doing something other than handling his firearm and in the process of fiddling about with the other equipment he had, it would appear, that in some way he's knocked his gun and it's discharged," Dr Nelson said today.
"There is no suggestion it was anything other than an accident."
Air Chief Marshal Houston said it appeared the other two people in the room were not looking at Private Kovco when the gun discharged.
"Essentially when they looked up he had clearly been shot," he said.
Air Chief Marshal Houston said the proposed board of inquiry would be complete and independent and headed by a civilian with judicial experience.
"The circumstances of this particular tragedy, what appears to be a tragic accident, need to be explored by the board of inquiry. I am not prepared to undermine that process," he said
"It is a process that I have a great deal of confidence in and the process, I hope will reveal, the circumstances of death."
THE private company that shipped home the wrong body instead of Australian soldier Jake Kovco's remains, says it was not responsible for identifying the body..
Kenyon International Emergency Services, a US-based company that has been involved in the recovery of bodies from more than 300 disasters during 75 years in business, had the responsibility of returning Private Kovco's body to Melbourne from Kuwait.
But the wrong body was returned home, and Defence Minister Brendan Nelson pointed the blame at the company and a private mortuary in Kuwait.
The company said in a statement it was usual practice for a Kenyon agent to be involved in repatriation, but representatives from the Australian Defence Force and the Australian government, such as the local consul or embassy, would identify the deceased soldier.
"It is uncertain as to whether this process was followed in this instance as the facts are still being ascertained," the company said.
"It should be noted that during the formal process Kenyon is not responsible for the role of identifying the body of the deceased."
The company said its priority was to return Private Kovco to his family, so they could begin the grieving and healing process, and to ensure the man's body incorrectly repatriated to Australia was also repatriated home to his family.
It is understood the body mistakenly brought to Australia was that of a soldier from an eastern European nation.