Agencies join soldier drug inquiry
An inquiry into an apparent overdose by an Australian soldier in Afghanistan has been expanded into a multi-agency investigation.
The revelation comes five months after the commando, known as Private D, was found unconscious in his quarters at the Australian base at Tarin Kowt, in Oruzgan Province.
In the aftermath of the incident, the Chief of the Defence Force, Angus Houston, said pills and a white powder, believed to be an opiate, had been found in Private D's quarters.
The commando was flown to a US air base in Germany in a serious condition for treatment, eventually returning to Australia in June. He has returned to his unit, but is on restricted duties while the investigation continues.
The defence chief announced in June that a commission of inquiry headed by a civilian legal expert would be convened to examine the defence force prohibited substance testing program and investigate the extent of drug use by those in the field.
However, Defence said this week that the investigation now involved agencies other than the Australian Defence Force Investigative Service.
''This matter remains under investigation. ADFIS is conducting this investigation with input from external agencies. At this point it is not possible for the ADF to predict when this investigation will be completed,'' a Defence spokesman said.
When the Herald contacted Customs to ask whether it was one of the agencies involved in the probe, it was told that the Defence Force had asked Customs not to discuss the case. A spokeswoman for Customs admitted that she had not asked anybody within her organisation whether they were involved in the investigation, but had instead immediately contacted Defence.
A spokeswoman for the federal police also directed all enquiries to Defence public affairs.
In the aftermath of Private D's apparent overdose, more than 300 members of the Special Operations Task Group in Afghanistan were drug tested, and all subsequently tested negative.
In June Air Chief Marshal Houston praised the soldier's ''superb'' performance in Afghanistan.
''His actions on one occasion certainly contributed to the saving of the life of one of his mates,'' he said. ''We are talking about somebody who has performed superbly in operations. He was fully up to date with his 'return to Australia' psychological screening and subsequent follow-up screening. There was nothing untoward that came out of any of those screenings.''