Operation Burnham: Former Defence Minister says it was his decision to keep possible civilian deaths secret

  • 18/10/2019

A former defence minister has fallen on his sword by saying it was his decision not to go public about possible civilian deaths in a SAS mission in Afghanistan. 

Wayne Mapp is at the centre of an inquiry into the alleged cover-up of the 2010 Operation Burnham.

Mapp says in his three years as defence minister he never received any hard proof civilians had been killed in the raid.

"Well there was no evidence of actual civilian casualties…there had to be something more than what there was," he said on Friday.

Under intense questioning, Mapp confirmed he only recently remembered a briefing from a defence colonel, Jim Blackwell, on a top-secret report that found civilians could have been killed by a faulty gun on an American helicopter. 

Both the Government and Defence Force at the time denied civilians had died - Mapp says it was his decision not to correct the record.

"I got a briefing, I made a decision. I am responsible for my decision," he said.

Mapp's admission follows a series of conflicting accounts from defence personnel at the inquiry about who knew about the report. Incomplete records and missing emails have also hampered the inquiry.  

The inquiry counsel Kristy McDonald asked Mapp if he's been asked to take the blame. 

He said he hasn't.

Mapp says in hindsight, he should have read the report and taken the matter further. 

Public hearings on the inquiry finish today - a report's now due in March