26 Sep 2019

Inquiry to probe documents locked in Defence Force safe

2:53 pm on 26 September 2019

A Defence Force inquiry will hear evidence from key personnel over documents that were locked in a safe and forgotten about.

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Photo: supplied

Last week, new evidence forced the Operation Burnham Inquiry to suspend a public hearing looking into claims of civilian deaths in a New Zealand-led raid in Afghanistan in 2010.

A register was presented to the inquiry for the first time, showing when a bundle of documents entered a Defence Force safe in 2011.

Included in that bundle was a report from the International Security Assistance Force, which said civilian casualties may have occurred, contradicting public statements by the Defence Force that deaths were unlikely.

The bundle was found in the safe in 2014, after a Native Affairs documentary by Hit and Run co-author Jon Stephenson.

Military staff have repeatedly told the inquiry they have no idea how Defence got the report, however a signature on the register mentioned the office of the director of special operations.

At the time, the director was Jim Blackwell.

He will present evidence to the inquiry when its resumes hearing evidence next month.

As well, other staff Christopher Hoey, Mike Thompson and Ross Smith will be recalled to give evidence, along with current defence chief, Air Marshal Kevin Short.

The public hearing will take place in Wellington for two days on 15 and 16 October.

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