Soldier had PTSD before death, court told

An Australian Defence Force soldier had been trying to discharge from the army on medical grounds when he killed himself in 2017, a coronial court has heard.

An inquest into the death of Corporal Ian Turner, which began in Sydney on Monday, 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.

Counsel assisting the inquest, Katrina Stern SC, said in her opening address that Cpl Turner had deployed seven times since joining the ADF in 2000, spending nearly three years on combat operations in total.

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.

His wife, Joanna Turner, reported behaviour changes after he experienced traumatic events on deployments, including the death of a close friend in Afghanistan in 2013. He was increasingly violent at home and consumed excessive alcohol.

In 2016, Cpl Turner was denied medical clearance to deploy to Iraq. However, an army major intervened to have his clearance granted.

Ms Turner’s written statement indicates that Cpl Turner was not taking his medication because he wanted to be effective at work and not medically downgraded.

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, Ms Stern 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.

Cpl Turner separated from his wife in 2016.

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 15 July 2017, aged 35.

An army inspector-general report after his death found that his service contributed to his marriage breakdown and suicide.

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.”

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