Army ignored DV complaints, inquest told
The wife of an Australian Defence Force soldier who later killed himself says she repeatedly told the army about his violence towards her and excessive alcohol consumption but he was still deployed to combat operations.
Joanna Turner gave evidence of Corporal Ian Turner's escalating behaviour at an inquest into his death, which began in Sydney on Monday.
The inquest will explore the causes for his death, particularly the circumstances which led to him deploying to Iraq even after he had been diagnosed with serious psychiatric issues.
Ms Turner said the domestic violence and alcohol consumption became worse in 2009 after her husband returned from Afghanistan, where a colleague had been killed in action.
"His way of processing difficult emotions was just I think to drink alcohol," Ms Turner said.
Two army chaplains were informed of Cpl Turner's violence in 2013. Though one occasionally came to the home to intervene, "no specific action" was taken over her complaints, she said.
"I would raise concerns and nothing happened," Ms Turner said. As well, she said she was "harshly criticised and shamed" after taking out an apprehended violence order against her husband.
"Instead of anyone providing my family with any level of support, pretty much I was just cut off, not told anything. I was feeling like I was crazy or I was making up lies to get Ian in trouble," she said.
Increasingly desperate, in 2014 and with her husband's knowledge, she wrote to her husband's commanding officer to outline her concern for her family's welfare and to tell him that his mental health was being overlooked.
The officer and Ms Turner met for coffee, but "nothing ever really happened about it", she said.
Cpl Turner was admitted to an inpatient psychiatric hospital in 2014 and ordered by a court to undergo a year of psychological sessions after he was charged with offences arising from the domestic abuse of his wife.
Cpl Turner boasted of his ability to manipulate psychologists and psychiatrists to do as he wished, Ms Turner said.
He became more secretive about his mental health problems and his "sole focus" was "to just get back to work", Ms Turner said.
Cpl Turner was deployed again to Iraq in 2015 and 2016 before he died in 2017. Ms Turner separated from her husband in 2016.
In 2016, he was denied medical clearance to deploy to Iraq. However, an army major intervened to have his clearance granted.
During the 2016 deployment, he was subject to disciplinary proceedings over what he described as a practical joke, and demoted from sergeant to corporal.
The proceedings made him stressed and he felt he was being double punished when he was moved to a different company, counsel assisting Katrina Stern SC said in her opening address.
His PTSD symptoms were also triggered by a 2016 operation to recover the body of a US soldier buried in sand.
He spoke to a psychiatrist in July 2017 about the process of medically discharging from the army, and was in the process of securing or moving toward discharge at the time of his death, Ms Stern said.
Cpl Turner was found dead at home on July 5, 2017, aged 35.
An army inspector-general report after his death found that his service contributed to his marriage breakdown and suicide.
In total, he deployed seven times since joining the ADF in 2000, spending nearly three years on combat operations.
In one note he left when he died, Cpl Turner wrote: "Nobody can help me, I'm too far gone, please just let me go, I've suffered enough."
Ms Turner is scheduled to continue giving evidence on Tuesday.
Lifeline 13 11 14
beyondblue 1300 22 4636
Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.
Sign up for our emails