Details of the investigation of the Baghdad barracks where Pte Kovco was shot in the head emerged today when military police investigators appeared before the board of inquiry (BOI) being held at Army Land Headquarters in Sydney.
Military investigators and New South Wales Police forensic experts were called in to examine the room, which Pte Kovco shared with two other soldiers, after the shooting on April 21 this year.
But one of the military investigators, Sergeant Stephen Hession, told the inquiry that shortly after he finished examining the room, already days after the shooting, cleaners were brought in.
As part of his investigation, Sgt Hession took photos and video footage of the room and bagged up various items, including Pte Kovco’s 9mm Browning pistol, with which he is believed to have been shot.
He then handed over control of the room – which had the pistol, a rifle and other items belonging to Pte Kovco and his roommates – to a platoon commander.
While New South Wales Police were on their way to Baghdad to examine the room, it was being cleaned.
Sgt Hession said he didn’t know when he handed over control of the room that police wanted to examine it, and when he found out moves were made to stop the cleaning.
“Unfortunately, that was two to three hours after the room had been handed over to them (platoon commander) and cleaning had commenced,” he said.
“I was under the direction of my captain … at no stage did he suggest to me that NSW (police) was going to be involved.”
No tests on clothes
The inquiry also heard, from Sgt Hession, that no tests were carried out on the clothes Pte Kovco wore on the day he was shot because they were destroyed at the US military hospital in Baghdad where he was treated.
Clothes and equipment belonging to Pte Kovco’s two roommates also weren’t tested, despite the men being in the room when the gun went discharged.
“Unfortunately … both soldiers had been allowed to wash their clothes and themselves and their bodies,” Sgt Hession said.
Sergeant Hession decided not to carry out any gunshot residue or DNA tests on anything in Pte Kovco’s room, including what he believed was blood stains on the carpet. He also told the inquiry that he might have moved Pte Kovco’s gun while he was examining the room and that up to five other soldiers could have been allowed inside before his examination began.
Documents and a soft toy were also removed from the room before Sgt Hession got to the scene.
Sergeant Hession also denied coaching Pte Kovco’s colleagues about what to say in their official statements, which were taken approximately nine days after the shooting.
He said while there was “a considerable amount of templating” in the statements, most of the similar comments related to the soldiers’ training and not the shooting.
The inquiry continues.