Australia — Inquiry Officer report into the combat death of Sergeant Brett Till released

The Vice Chief of the Defence Force, Lieu­tenant Gen­er­al David Hur­ley, today released details of the death of Sergeant Brett Till, a mem­ber of the Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Task Group (SOTG), who was killed in action on 19 March 2009 as a result of an insur­gent emplaced Improved Explo­sive Device (IED).

Lieu­tenant Gen­er­al Hur­ley acknowl­edged the delay in releas­ing the Inquiry Officer’s report. “The Inquiry Offi­cer iden­ti­fied some mat­ters which required fur­ther exam­i­na­tion and Defence has under­tak­en a num­ber of reviews in the 18 months since Sergeant Till’s death.”

Sergeant Till was lead­ing an Explo­sive Ord­nance Dis­pos­al (EOD) Team as part of a route clear­ance oper­a­tion on 18/19 March 2009 when a mem­ber of his team locat­ed an IED. Dur­ing the sub­se­quent activ­i­ty to destroy the IED the main charge det­o­nat­ed, killing Sergeant Till instant­ly.

“Sergeant Till was kneel­ing next to the IED when it det­o­nat­ed at approx­i­mate­ly 0715hrs. The Inquiry Offi­cer found that there was insuf­fi­cient evi­dence to deter­mine what ini­ti­at­ed the det­o­na­tion.

The Inquiry Officer’s report states that Sergeant Till began the process to destroy the IED in accor­dance with the Offi­cer Com­mand­ing the Force Element’s direc­tion. How­ev­er, after the first con­trolled det­o­na­tion, Sergeant Till appears to have adapt­ed his approach to this task.

“This does not imply Sergeant Till act­ed con­trary to his orders. At all times Sergeant Till applied tech­niques which were con­sis­tent with adapt­ed Tac­tics, Tech­niques and Pro­ce­dures.

There are a num­ber of valid tech­niques Sergeant Till could have adopt­ed to destroy the IED when he reassessed the sit­u­a­tion after the ini­tial explo­sion. There is no clear evi­dence to sug­gest Sergeant Till did not intend to destroy the IED.

“The Inquiry Offi­cer stat­ed that there was no evi­dence of any per­son­nel fail­ing in the per­for­mance of their duties,” said Lieu­tenant Gen­er­al Hur­ley.

The Inquiry Offi­cer raised some mat­ters regard­ing the man­ning and com­po­si­tion of EOD Teams at the time of Sergeant Till’s death. In response the Chief of Army com­mis­sioned the Explo­sive Haz­ards Review Board to under­take a detailed exam­i­na­tion of EOD Man­ning and doc­trine with par­tic­u­lar atten­tion to the prepa­ra­tion and employ­ment of EOD Teams.

“The Review Board deter­mined that the SOTG Team con­struct was appro­pri­ate at the time of Sergeant Till’s death and remains robust and con­sis­tent with doc­trine,” said Lieu­tenant Gen­er­al Hur­ley.

The Inquiry Offi­cer found that the cir­cum­stances asso­ci­at­ed with Sergeant Till’s death do not war­rant the appoint­ment of a Com­mis­sion of Inquiry.

The Vice Chief of the Defence Force offered his con­do­lences to Sergeant Till’s fam­i­ly and friends on behalf of the wider Defence Com­mu­ni­ty.

“Sergeant Till was a high­ly respect­ed sol­dier and a very capa­ble EOD Tech­ni­cian. His mates remem­ber him as a self­less bloke who made a dif­fer­ence. Brett’s team held him in the high­est regard as a pro­fes­sion­al and ded­i­cat­ed sol­dier who died pro­tect­ing his mates,” said Lieu­tenant Gen­er­al Hur­ley.

For fur­ther infor­ma­tion:
A tran­script of Lieu­tenant Gen­er­al Hurley’s speech and an unclas­si­fied ver­sion of the Inquiry Offi­cer report (pdf-file) is avail­able at: www.defence.gov.au

Press release
Min­is­te­r­i­al Sup­port and Pub­lic Affairs,
Depart­ment of Defence,
Can­ber­ra, Aus­tralia

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