DEFENCE Force investigators mishandled the remains of dead Diggers and incorrectly placed three fallen troops in the lids of caskets.
A major investigation by The Courier-Mail has also found that the remains of alleged Afghan insurgents who died in Australian custody were lost, deaths in custody were not investigated and crucial evidence was fabricated, lost or contaminated.
In one infamous case, which has become known as "Weekend at Bernie's" after the 1989 film, a local's body was sent out of the base at Tarin Kowt in a taxi.
"He was last seen going out the gate with his legs hanging out the taxi window," a whistleblower said.
Another body, named "Abdul Kaput" by Diggers, was transported to the local morgue in a Bushmaster, but returned to the base when the hospital refused to take it.
AUSTRALIA'S lead role in stumping up US$100 million per year for security forces in Afghanistan has been used to shame other countries into paying up. ..End of sidebar. Return to start of sidebar.
The "Weekend at Bernie's" incident was confirmed by Defence chief General David Hurley who blamed Dutch and Afghan authorities. He said Defence understood a funeral service had been held, but whistleblowers said the corpse was never traced.
"Those arrangements were put in place by Afghans about how the body would be taken away and that is what occurred," Gen Hurley said.
However, an Australian military policeman took custody of the body and washed and processed it.
In answer to one of 36 questions from The Courier-Mail, the military said: "Defence has since developed more specific guidance to the ADF on its responsibilities in the management of local national human remains, including detainees."
A number of serious allegations have been made about the handling of investigations by the new Australian Defence Force Investigative Service (ADFIS) after whistleblowers came forward with disturbing claims, including:
The illegal detention of a child by Australian service police.
The non-investigation of the shooting of a prisoner during interrogation by a special forces intelligence officer.
The inhumane 50-day detention in the Australian prison of a badly wounded Afghan.
Evidence tampering and fabrication including crucial evidence in the case of an Australian sapper accidentally shot by his boss.
Gen Hurley emphasised that all Australian bodies had been treated with the utmost respect and had been in the correct face-up position throughout their journey home.
The fallen soldiers involved in the casket-lid debacle were Lieutenant Michael Fussell, Sergeant Brett Wood and Lance Corporal Andrew Jones.
"The incorrect orientation of the caskets was probably due to a training deficiency that resulted in a lack of familiarity by some members with the unusual configuration of the caskets - that is, that the lid is larger than the base," Defence said.
The seven bodies that had medical equipment removed were those of Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney, Corporal Richard Atkinson, Sergeant Brett Wood, Lance Corporal Andrew Jones, Lieutenant Marcus Case, Sapper Rowan Robinson and Sergeant Todd Langley.
"What appears to have occurred was essentially a difference of professional opinion between medical staff and ADFIS investigators about coronial requirements for handling medical devices in the human remains," Defence said.
"Medical staff thought devices should remain in situ. Investigators thought they should be removed."
But a whistleblower said experienced ADFIS staff had told their comrades to leave tubes and other medical equipment in place.
A technical bulletin was written by ADFIS boss Lieutenant Colonel David McGarry in June last year ordering his staff to "not remove tubes" from remains.
According to two former ADFIS investigators, the service, which was formed after the loss of the body of Private Jake Kovco in Baghdad in April 2006, is in utter disarray.
The Courier-Mail has been provided with a raft of evidence regarding prisoner and evidence mishandling.
One secret document, called a "tactical questioning report", asked why a suspect had been detained "... the fact he was a dodgy bastard with a beard and a turban," it says.
In one case a prisoner called Mirwais, who was shot in the stomach by Diggers, was discharged into the Australian detention facility where he spent the next 50 days in agony.
An elderly prisoner, known as 272, was allegedly convicted and jailed on fingerprint and photographic evidence that an investigator said did not even exist.
"There is no doubt he is innocent and that the evidence was fabricated and false," the investigator said.
Gen Hurley said he was seeking "clarification" of the case of the fatal shooting of an insurgent by a special forces officer after the man allegedly pulled a weapon following a session of "tactical questioning".
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