Saturday, July 08, 2006

Archival rescue 69 ~ Iraq, ABC

An ABC report, related to SMH archive 68.

Defence groups welcome Kovco report
Saturday, July 8, 2006. 7:20am (AEST) ABC

The nation's major defence bodies have backed moves to overhaul the repatriation of Australian soldiers who are killed overseas.

An inquiry into the return of Private Jake Kovco's body from Iraq has identified a series of mistakes.

Private Kovco's body was confused with that of a Bosnian carpenter, and the wrong coffin was brought to Australia from Iraq earlier this year.

The inquiry found the wrong body was brought home, despite being clearly labelled as another man.

Defence chief, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, says the mistakes will not be repeated.

RSL national president Major General Bill Crews says he hopes that is the case.

"Of course nobody can make iron-clad guarantees in this respect but I think this will overcome certainly the difficulties that arose in this case," he said.

In the future tighter regulations will mean the return of bodies will take longer.

The Defence Association's Neil James says commonsense should be applied.

"We think it's probably more important they get back quickly, than necessarily they need to come back just in a RAAF aircraft," he said.

Mr James says he is pleased disciplinary action will not be taken against the soldier who made the wrong identification.

"It was a badly lit morgue, the digger in question was emotionally affected, the surname of both Private Kovco and the Bosnian fellow are not dissimilar, they both had head injuries," he said.

"I mean, tragic though the mistake was, I think we can all understand how it happened and sympathise with the digger in question and certainly the Kovco and Small families don't hold it against him."

Private Kovco was the first Australian soldier to die during the deployment to Iraq.

Another inquiry, into how he died, resumes on Monday.


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