Some family members of Corporal Douglas Hughes say they want
an open inquest to satisfy their questions over the soldier's
Coroner Gordon Matenga last week found that Corporal Hughes'
death was a suicide. But he did not open an inquest and said
he was satisfied with the investigation that was conducted by
the Defence Force court of inquiry, details of which he
But Corporal Hughes' uncle Mike Poa said the family held
strong concerns about the Defence Force's handling of the
He would not discuss the issue in detail before a whanau
meeting because the family wanted to present a united front
in confronting their concerns.
"We're not embarrassed by the fact he [Corporal Hughes] is
gay. I just feel personally they didn't do enough to support
him. My feeling is perhaps he lacked access to the assistance
"I don't think we've been told the truth," said Mr Poa.
Corporal Hughes' mother, Venus Poa, is due back from a trip
to Australia tomorrow, Mr Poa said.
The family planned to meet and discuss what steps to take now
that there will be no coronial inquiry, he said.
"I just want to get to the bottom of things. The army have
abdicated their responsibility."
He said the family had hoped the coronial inquiry would
satisfy their questions and he was angry Mr Matenga had
decided not to hold an inquest.
"It's his job to do an investigation."
Former Defence Minister Phil Goff has backed the family.
"I'm not throwing the blame on any particular individual on
this," said Mr Goff, now Labour's defence spokesman.
"I'm just saying that when you have a tragedy of this nature,
it's really important to learn all of the lessons of it so
you can avoid it happening again.
"Only if you bring it out in the open can you seriously start
to address it."
Mr Goff wants the decision overturned by the Chief Coroner or
Solicitor-General, as is possible under the Coroners Act.
Corporal Hughes was serving at Romero base in Bamiyan
province at the time of his death on April 3 last year in the
presence of a colleague.
"This is not about a witch-hunt," said Mr Goff. "It is about
finding answers which will assist the Defence Force to help
prevent a death of this nature again.
"You need to get to the bottom of it, and frankly there are
times when it is better dealt with outside of the Defence
Force than simply through a court of inquiry.
"Fresh eyes and an outside perspective may well be of real
assistance to the Defence Force in putting the right policies
The family reportedly believe Corporal Hughes was bullied
because he was gay and received no support from commanders.
But Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman told the Herald
yesterday that he did not believe anything could have been
done to prevent the tragedy.
Asked about the New Zealand Defence Force in terms of its
attitude to homosexual defence personnel, Dr Coleman said he
did not have concerns about the force's attitude but could
not account for the attitudes of every person in the
"I don't have any concerns about the institutional framework
The Defence Force has had a policy of accepting gay personnel
in line with the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1986
and the Human Rights Act 1993.
About a year ago the OverWatch group was formed as a support
group for gay personnel and an advisory group for Defence
hierarchy. It marched in the Auckland Gay Pride Parade last
- Audrey Young and David Fisher of the New Zealand