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Kovco inquiry hears from former lover -

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Kovco inquiry hears from former lover

The World Today - Thursday, 13 March , 2008 12:54:00

Reporter: Leigh Sales

ELEANOR HALL: It's been almost two years since Private Jacob Kovco died from a single gunshot wound
to the head while serving in Iraq and questions are still being raised about the manner of his
death.

An earlier military inquiry found that Private Kovco had accidentally shot himself while
skylarking, but some members of his family rejected that finding and asked for an independent
inquiry.

This morning a woman who had a short affair with Private Kovco offered a new insight into his state
of mind.

Our reporter Leigh Sales was at the Glebe Coroners Court to hear the latest evidence, and she joins
us now.

So Leigh, what do we know about this witness and her relationship with Private Kovco?

LEIGH SALES: Eleanor, her name is Amy Johns and she met Jake Kovco at a hotel in Brisbane just
before he deployed to Iraq in early 2006. They hit it off at the pub and he was buying her drinks
and they eventually went home together.

In the taxi on the way home he got his wallet out to pay and there were some photos of two children
in his wallet and she asked who they were and he said they were his niece and nephew even though
they were actually his own children and he was married at the time.

They went home together, they were intimate. The next day they got together again. This time she
noticed that he had a tan mark where his wedding ring would have been and she asked him, "are you
married?" And he said to her, "Oh, I'm separated from my wife but she's going to keep living in our
house while I deploy off to Iraq."

And then this woman Amy Johns said she didn't have anything to do with Jake Kovco after those two
encounters.

ELEANOR HALL: So how significant was the evidence she gave today?

LEIGH SALES: Well the relevance of it is that Amy Johns says she asked Jake Kovco to tell her
something about himself that nobody else knew, and he told her that he'd been sexually abused as a
child and that he'd been depressed about it and at one stage had felt suicidal and had been in a
ute on his family's property with a gun and was drinking and was planning to kill himself but that
his father came and stopped him.

So the relevance of her evidence goes to whether or not Jake Kovco was still depressed at the time
he went to Iraq about that sexual abuse, and whether that may have played a role in his death,
because there's speculation that perhaps it was suicide rather than an accidental shooting.

ELEANOR HALL: Now Private Kovco's mother has taken the stand today as well. What did she have to
say?

LEIGH SALES: She's only taken the stand in the past half hour or so. She's been talking mostly
about Kovco's childhood and she's been asked about this sexual abuse and when she became aware of
it. She says Jake told her about it when he was 18, but that it had started when he was seven and
it occurred over an eight or nine month period and a 17-year-old neighbour had abused him.

She said Jake refused to tell her in detail what had gone on and the testimony we're hearing at the
moment is also that he refused to go and seek treatment to help him deal with it.

ELEANOR HALL: Are we likely to hear from Private Kovco's wife?

LEIGH SALES: She's going to be on the stand this afternoon and will be quizzed about some of the
same material and obviously now in light of what the lover has shared this morning, the state of
their marriage.

ELEANOR HALL: And when is this inquiry expected to wind up? It isn't the first of course into the
circumstances of his death.

LEIGH SALES: It'll, there's a couple more witnesses that need to be heard from. They're expecting
the evidence will wrap up next week and then there'll be a week's worth of summing up and then,
there's a jury listening to this case, the jury will have to decide how they think Private Kovco
died. So it'll be probably in the couple of weeks after Easter, some time I'd say in early April
that we'll get an outcome from this inquiry.

ELEANOR HALL: Leigh Sales, thank you. That's Leigh Sales at the Glebe Coroners Court, the Private
Kovco inquiry there.