Five days ago, Private Kovco was shot in Iraq. Since then, almost every report on the tragedy has stated he was cleaning
his
pistol when it discharged. But this morning, Defence Minister Brendan
Nelson told Alan
Jones on 2GB that this claim is wrong.

Nelson, who was fronting Jones about the bungle that saw Kovco’s body left behind in Kuwait, dropped the bombshell when Jones
read out an email from a sporting shooter who argued that it “beggared belief that an experienced shooter
would attempt to clean a loaded gun”.

The Minister replied: “The person who’s written that is absolutely right.
The family is quite distressed. The reports are he was cleaning his weapon. He
wasn’t in fact cleaning his weapon. It was near him in his vicinity and he made some kind of
movement which suggests that it discharged.”

Kovco was a sniper who used a whole variety of weapons, said
Nelson, and had been in a room with two mates when the incident
happened. “There was obviously a live round in it [the gun] which there
should not
have been and that’s as much as I should probably say at the
moment”, said Dr Nelson. “There is no evidence that it was
anything other than an
accident.”

Jones didn’t ask why it has taken Dr Nelson and the army so long to
correct the
record when speculation has been raging about how such an accident could
have occurred. Nor did he ask who was the source of the incorrect
information in the first place. If he had, he might’ve discovered it was
one Brendan Nelson, who in a press conference on Saturday, said:

Well I was
contacted about half an hour after the event occurred, late last night,
by the Chief of Defence, I then took advice directly from Air Chief
Marshal Angus Houston, who’s been in direct contact with Brigadier Paul
Symon, who commands our troops in Iraq. We know that the soldier was
involved in our security detachment, which works in the international
zone near our embassy in Baghdad. I’m advised that the soldier was
simply handling his weapon, and maintaining it as soldiers are required
to do, and for some unexplained reason, the firearm discharged, and a
bullet unfortunately entered the soldier’s head, and several hours
after the injury, despite receiving the best of medical care, he
unfortunately passed away.

Two separate investigations have been launched into the
tragedy and in an interview with The Age this morning, Judy Kovco, Private Kovco’s mother, said she “never believed that he died while
cleaning his gun” and will not rest until the truth emerges. “My son knew guns so well. None of us can comprehend how this
could have happened”, she told The Age.

“You could have put a blindfold on him. He could dismantle a gun
and put it together again without even looking at it. We kept
saying there’s no way, there’s no way.” She said the army owed the family an immediate and clear
explanation in light of Mr Nelson’s comments this morning.

“He didn’t shoot himself,” Mrs Kovco said. “The gun went off. It
was near him. It was nearby. (So) what did Jake do? Put his head
down near the table so it could shoot him in the head, did he?”

Peter Fray

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