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Embassy shooting witness changed his story


Rae and Colin Betts are seen leaving the Coroners Court in Brisbane, Wednesday, November 6, 2019. An inquest is being held into the death of Christopher Betts, 34, in Australia's embassy in Iraq more than three years ago. (AAP Image/Glenn Hunt) 

The only witness to an elite former soldier's death at the Australian embassy in Iraq was drunk and pretended to be in shock as he changed his story to hide that he hadn't followed operating procedures, an inquest has heard.

Christopher Betts, 34, was a private security contractor at the Baghdad embassy when he shot himself in the head on May 12, 2016.

He died after a night of drinking with fellow Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade contractor, Sun McKay, in the embassy living quarters, the Brisbane Coroners Court has heard.

Mr Betts picked up Mr McKay's loaded Glock 17 pistol, held it to his head and said: "It's time to play clear or not clear," Mr McKay has told investigators.

He then pulled the trigger, Mr McKay said.

Australian Federal Police were unable to determine if the death was caused by misadventure or suicide.

One of Mr Betts and Mr McKay's former United Resources Group colleagues, George Flower, helped physically restrain Mr McKay in the minutes after Mr Betts was shot.

He said Mr McKay appeared to be suffering shock and was impeding efforts to save Mr Betts' life through his actions.

Mr Flower and another contractor removed Mr McKay to another room where they had to wrestle the physically aggressive medic to keep him from trying to reach his injured friend.

"His eyes were red, his eyes were glazed, he stunk of booze ... hammered," he said.

Mr Flower said it was possible Mr McKay was also on drugs and in the hours after the shooting his story about what happened to Mr Betts began changing.

"The guy wasn't the normal, nice, calm guy I knew prior to the incident," he said.

Initially, he said Mr Betts picked up the pistol, loaded it, said goodbye and put it to his head before pulling the trigger, Mr Flower said.

But later his version of events changed.

"He came across as a shock casualty ... in hindsight it seems he was playing out more than being an actual shock casualty," he said.

"It seemed it was all part of an elaborate game."

He believes Mr McKay could have accidentally shot Mr Betts while practising loading and unloading his weapon and then decided to "pass it off on Chris" as suicide.

Or, Mr McKay may have ignored operating procedure and left his loaded pistol in his room which an alcohol-affected Mr Betts picked up and unintentionally killed himself with because he thought it was unloaded when he pulled the trigger, he said.

"Instead of being truthful about it and saying 'my pistol was action-ready and Chris has picked it up' ... Sun would not admit to having an actioned pistol in his room because then he would breaking protocol," he said.

"The whole (story) was filled with gaps."

"I don't believe Chris killed himself," he said.

The inquest continues on Thursday.

© AAP 2019