As of June 2008, there have been two fatalities amongst Australian police and military forces deployed under the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI). A civilian advisor under RAMSI also died in a car accident in 2007.

Australian Protective Services (APS) officer Adam Dunning

On 22 December 2004, Australian Protective Services (APS) officer Adam Dunning, aged 26, was on a nighttime patrol in a vehicle in the capital Honiara. The vehicle came under fire in a targeted ambush, and Dunning was fatally wounded by two shots, out of six shots fired from a high powered rifle.

Immediately after the killing, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji deployed extra troops and police to Honiara – the ADF deployed an extra 100 troops from the ist RAR (part of the Ready reaction force of the 3rd Brigade in Townsville) in response to the killing, which changed the tempo of operations after the initial successes of 2003.

James Tatau and John Hen Ome, two former members of the Malaita Eagle Force (MEF) militia, were arrested and charged with the murder of Adam Dunning and the attempted murder of his patrol colleague, but were acquitted at trial in 2007.

Operation Helpem Fren – a personal perspective, Ben McDevitt, Australian Army Journal, Vol.3 No.2, Winter 2006, p63

“The job remains a difficult, and at times a very dangerous one. In the past eight months [2004-05] there have been two assassination attempts on RAMSI personnel and in May 2004 at Manakwai village on Malu’u, North Malaita shots were exchanged between RAMSI military forces and a criminal element. The second assassination attempt against RAMSI personnel (which, like the first in October 2004, was a cowardly ambush of a PPF patrol in Honiara) resulted in the shooting death of Australian Federal Police (AFP) officer Adam Dunning on 22 December 2004.”

Peacekeeper killed, Fiona Peacock, Air Force newspaper

Verdict disappoints police, Solomon Star, 15 May 2007

“Tatau and two other accused, Philip Kwaimani and John Ross, were also acquitted in May 2007 on charges of attempted murder of two PPF police officers from Nauru and Tonga, during another sniper attack in October 2004. The PPF officer from Nauru received minor shrapnel wounds during the attack.”

Posthumous award for AFP officer Adam Dunning, AFP Media release, Friday, 21 December 2007

“Australian Federal Police (AFP) Commissioner Mick Keelty will today posthumously award the family of fallen AFP Protective Service Officer (PSO) Adam Dunning with his Police Overseas Service Medal (POSM) at a ceremony at the AFP College in Barton. PSO Dunning was tragically shot and killed while on patrol in the Solomon Islands on December 23, 2004. Commissioner Keelty will present the medal to his father Mr Mike Dunning and Ms Elise Wiscombe, Adam’s partner. In recognising PSO Dunning’s service with the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI), Commissioner Keelty said the medal highlighted the dedication displayed by AFP officers when serving overseas.”

ADF Private Jamie Clarke 

The second Australian death in three months occurred on 10 March 2005, when ADF Private Jamie Clarke, aged 22, was accidentally killed, falling into the deep shaft of a cave while searching for a weapons stash during a bush patrol.

Soldier Dies In Accident On Solomon Islands, Defence Media Release CPA 080/04, 10 March 2005

“An Australian soldier has died whilst on patrol in the Solomon Islands, the Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Peter Leahy, said today…..The soldier was part of a patrol providing security to Police Officers from the Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI) when he died. Full details of the incident are not available at this time, however it appears that the soldier died from injuries he received after falling into a deep shaft in an area east of Honiara. He was pronounced dead by paramedics at the scene of the accident. The soldier, from the Sydney-based 3rd Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment (3 RAR), had been serving in the Solomon Islands since late January.”  

Touching news, Army – the soldiers’ newspaper, 15 December 2005

“The mother of deceased 3RAR soldier Pte Jamie Clark visited the Solomon Islands for a three days to attend a wreath laying and memorial service at the Jamie Clark Lines at RAMSI’s headquarters in Honiara. Mrs Avril Clark also visited the village of Mborama, where Pte Clark spent some time working during his deployment to the Solomon Islands.”

Tony Scriva

Tributes to RAMSI advisor Antonio (Tony) Scriva, Media Release, 25 April 2007

RAMSI civilian advisor Antonio (Tony) Scriva, who worked in the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) was killed in a car accident In April 2007.

Other casualties

There have been a number of non-fatal injuries, including 31 police officers injured during the April 2006 riots in Honiara, which followed the election of Snyder Rini as Prime Minister.

Eight AFP officers injured in violent protest, AFP Media release, 18 April 2006

“The Australian Federal Police (AFP) can confirm eight officers, serving as part of the Participating Police Force (PPF) in the Solomon Islands, have been injured during violent protest action in the country. The injured officers, who are predominantly from Canberra, are part of a 282-strong Australian contingent currently serving in the Solomon Islands as part of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI). One of the injured officers is expected to be repatriated to Australia for further medical attention. Other officers have suffered injuries including a dislocated shoulder and cuts. Two officers have undergone surgery and three officers have subsequently been released from a medical facility.”

An extraordinary day at the office, AFP News, Issue 128, June 2006

“Dodging rocks the size of house bricks, high-speed defensive driving, glass showers, and negotiating large fires – sounds like the plot of a Hollywood action movie, not a day in the life of the International Deployment Group. These were the experiences of some Participating Police Force (PPF) members in the thick of last month’s riots in Honiara. While many miraculously escaped injury during the violence, unfortunately some of our members were not so lucky.

“Up to 50 police – including State and Territory police from Australia along with New Zealand colleagues also working for the PPF – were reported injured during the 48-hour ordeal. They suffered injuries ranging from fractured jaws to bruising and lacerations, but fortunately most were not serious. After receiving medical treatment, many were able to quickly return to normal or lighter duties, while two PPF members had to be airlifted to Australia, while the remainder were treated in Honiara.

“International Deployment Group National Manager, Paul Jevtovic, said it was incredible more people were not seriously injured given the level of violence and chaos that reigned on Honiara’s streets during the riots…..Police officers from the RSIP stood shoulder to shoulder with PPF and Protective Service Officers in a protective cordon around Parliament House on Tuesday 18 April 2006. The disappointed crowd reacted to the announcement of Prime Minister Rini by chanting ‘Waku’. Then the first rock was thrown followed by a barrage of rocks hurled at the police lines. One rock struck Protective Service Officer Jon Casella in the face. With his hands to his face, blood pouring through his fingers, he stepped back from the line. As he started to fall, John Freeme (Coordinator Protective Security) left the police line and, amid the flying rocks and with no protection, shielded Jon with his body and guided him to the closed doors of the Parliament Robert Andrews assisted and with rocks flying around them they got Jon inside to relative safety. Adam Bycroft rendered first aid and was covered in blood. Jon held out his hand and asked Adam what he should do with what he held… his teeth. “What do you say to a guy who asks you what he should do with his teeth?” 31 members of the PPF were injured in the civil unrest.”

Commentary and Analysis

Solomon Islands – Mission Impossible?, “Dateline”, SBS TV, 6 April 2005

Reporter Mark Davis investigates the politics behind attacks on RAMSI personnel, including the assassination of AFP officer Adam Dunning.

RAMSI Police Did Not Break Rules in April Riots: McDermott, RAMSI media release, 29 July 2007