M ELBOURNE - An Australian family negotiated with mercenaries for a "Rambo-style"
rescue of three Western hostages in Cambodia on the "dangerous" advice
of Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs, a Parliamentary inquiry in Melbourne
has been told.
Melbourne mercenary Peter Drummond assured the family of David Wilson that his plan
to take Cambodian soldiers to the mountain Khmer Rouge camp where the foreigners
were being held was the only chance the hostages had of surviving, the inquiry heard
Tim Wilson told the inquiry into the 1994 kidnapping and execution of his brother
that in desperation his family followed the advice of the department's senior consular
officer, Wayne Fulton, to seek outside contacts in paying a ransom and went to Drummond,
a former Australian Vietnam veteran, who worked for Melbourne company Assett International.
Drummond presented himself as a trainer of Cambodian soldiers and the elite Australian
SAS commandos who would conduct the mission without the knowledge of the Australian
In a scathing attack on the department's handling of the crisis that led to execution
of the three hostages, Mr Wilson told the inquiry: "Imagine if we had gone ahead
with one of the mercenaries we met? Not only could we have been easy taking for a
quarter of a million dollars which we were in the process of collecting, but we could
have put David's life and other hostages' lives at enormous risk if the Rambo-style
rescue was really intended."
Wilson said the Department of Foreign Affairs later "blatantly lied to us"
about giving the advice to seek outside contacts, which was "much to our distress."
However, the department admitted to the inquiry that a separate Canberra-organised
commando-style raid to rescue the hostages was considered by representatives of the
Australian Defence Force, Foreign Affairs and Prime Minister and Cabinet on the request
of the then Foreign Affairs department head, Michael Costello.
But the idea was rejected, in part because its secrecy could not be assured, the
exact location of the hostages was not known and of other uncertainties making it
probable that the hostages and others would die, the department's submission said.
The inquiry by a committee of the Australian Senate was established last year to
investigate and report to Parliament's upper house on the murders of David Wilson,
29, Mark Slater, 28 of Britain and Jean-Michel Braquet, 29, of France, who were executed
in September or October 1994 after a Cambodian Government attempt to pay a $150,000
ransom collapsed after government troops starting attacking rebels in the area.
Wilson said the department's suggestion to seek outside contact to pay a ransom was
"dangerous advice without any proper explanation in how to go about it."
"After seriously considering engaging such a mercenary we were then informed
by Foreign Affairs that we didn't need to raise the ransom money as it was no longer
the request of David's captors and any such possible deal would be carried out by
the Cambodian Government, which the Australian Government refused to support,"
"Inaction on behalf of our government's leaders in such life-threatening situations
where an Australian citizen's cries for help are ignored should be recognised as
an act of negligence."
David Wilson's father, Peter, said that the priority of the former Labor Government
was to protect Australia's interests in Cambodia.
"I do believe that [former Foreign Minister] Gareth Evans knows more about the
Cambodian Government's involvment in the hostages crisis," Wilson said.
"He [Evans] refuses to accept the possibility of the Cambodian Government using
this crisis to further its international aid funding."
Australia annouced a military aid package for Cambodia within weeks of the fate of
the hostages becoming known.
In a letter to the inquiry, Evans, who is now deputy Opposition leader, said that
all his judgments on the case were made in good faith, on the best professional advise
with the overriding consideration always being the welfare of David and his fellow
A spokeman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said the department would answer
the Wilson family criticisms at future inquiry hearings.
The spokesman also rejected criticisms of Australia's ambassador in Phnom Penh, Tony
Kevin, who last week released a "personal statement" saying he would welcome
a request to give evidence to the inquiry, which is expected to continue into the
One of David Wilson's closest friends, David Purcell, who visited Phnom Penh during
the crisis, said that Kevin was a "bumbling mess" and "an absolute
In a Oct 25 statement issued from Phnom Penh, Kevin said he deeply respected the
grief of the Wilson family and friends, but that the criticisms of the Australian
government and foreign affairs officials were "without foundation".
On his request to testify before the Melbourne inquiry, Kevin said that, as ambassador
in Phnom Penh at the time of the hostage crisis, "I believe that the [Wilson]
family has a right to hear my personal testimony".
The Departmment of Foreign Affairs spokesman pointed out that Kevin's comments did
not neccessarily represent the views of the department and that no decisions had
been made on who would represent it at future hearings.
• Meanwhile, former Australian ambassador to Phnom Penh John Holloway is scheduled
to appear in Canberra court on Nov 4 on charges laid under Australia's Child Sex
Tourism Act which relate to allegations involving two Cambodian boys. Holloway denies
the charges. A magistrate will hear preliminary evidence to decide whether to commit
Holloway to trial.
Holloway, one of Australia's highest ranking diplomats, has been on leave since the
charges were laid earlier this year. He is also a former Australian Government-paid
adviser to Cambodia.