MEDICAL records from the Maralinga military hospital seemingly vanished more than 30 years ago, depriving servicemen of evidence they suffered illnesses caused by radiation.
Now, after years of official claims the files cannot be found, The Advertiser has obtained the only Maralinga Village Hospital record known to privately exist in Australia.
The two-page document is proof the hospital files must have been kept by either the British or Australian governments after the atomic test program.
The British-run hospital was set up in 1956 to treat servicemen and civilians for injuries or illnesses sustained during Operation Buffalo and Operation Antler in 1956 and 1957.
However, when ailing servicemen later requested copies of their in-patient records to support compensation claims, successive federal governments either said they did not exist or could not be located.
Servicemen remain convinced their medical records, their radiation counts and other details of their duties during the atomic tests have been deliberately concealed to stop compensation claims.
The suspicions of a former Australian Army engineer, John Woodleigh, were fuelled when he was sent his Maralinga Hospital file by the Defence Department in 1978 to deny him compensation for a stomach illness.
The record which showed Mr Woodleigh spent 10 days in the hospital in August, 1957, suffering chronic vomiting was used by the department to prove the condition existed before a tour of duty in Malaya in the 1960s where he claims to have contracted the illness.
Mr Woodleigh, who later changed his surname by deed poll to Hutton to honour his dying stepfather, told The Advertiser he began seeking further copies of the document after royal commissioner Jim McClelland revealed in 1991 that he had not sought the Maralinga Hospital records during his inquiry into whether the atomic tests caused illnesses among servicemen.
Mr Hutton then wrote to former prime minister Malcolm Fraser, who replied: "I regret to advise that I have no idea where they (the records) would be kept."
In November, 1992, the Defence Department said it had "no knowledge of the whereabouts of the requested files". The same month, the Primary Industries Department, which has responsibility for Maralinga issues, said it had "made numerous attempts to locate these records" since 1982 without success.
It also was told by the Department of Defence it did not know the whereabouts of the files.
"The Department of Defence has assured me that an examination has been undertaken of all possible sources in an attempt to locate these records, with no success," said litigation section head John Willis. Mr Hutton, 64, of Sydney, said his hospital record made a mockery of the claims.
"When they sent it to me, they outsmarted themselves. It's proof the records were there and just vanished. You just have to ask yourself the question why?"