Matthew - Interview 26
Age at interview: 48
Brief Outline: Matthew's brother, Timothy, was killed in the Bali bombing in 2002. He died instantly. His death was a terrible shock to the family. His body was brought back to the UK. Matthew is proud of the beautiful memorial that stands in London for those who died.
Background: Matthew is a Chartered Surveyor. He is married and has 4 children. Ethnic background/nationality: White British
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In 2002 Matthew’s brother, Timothy, was killed when a bomb exploded outside a nightclub in Bali. The bomb killed 202 people. Matthew heard about the bombing on the BBC news but did not know that his brother was involved. Timothy’s fiancé phoned to say that he was missing, so Matthew phoned the foreign office, but could not get any more information.
Matthew and his parents flew to Bali to look for Timothy. Matthew looked in hospitals and mortuaries but couldn’t find him. After about 10 days away Matthew and his parents returned home. They still hoped that Timothy might was alive, but soon afterwards they had a phone call from the Foreign Office telling them that Timothy was dead, having been identified by his dental records. A police officer also called at the family home to tell them what had happened. She described Timothy’s injuries. He had died in the bomb blast.
Timothy’s body was taken to Singapore. Matthew went to Singapore to accompany him home to Gatwick. The Foreign Office paid for the repatriation. Timothy’s body was then taken to a mortuary close to Gatwick, so that the local coroner could release Timothy’s body for his funeral.
After the funeral Timothy’s ashes were scattered in a rural area, near to others who had died in the Bali bombing. The families of those who died planted trees, and placed a plaque and a bench in the area in memory of those who had died.
Matthew, and a small group of others who had lost relatives in the Bali bomb, spent almost two years negotiating with the government and with other groups for permission to place a memorial on Horse Guards Road between the Foreign Office and the Treasury.
The memorial was commissioned by the families of the victims of the terrorist bombings and it was designed and made by Garry Breeze, lettering sculptor. The beautiful memorial, made of granite and Portland limestone, was opened by HRH Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.
The inquest was held in London. All the deaths were dealt with at the same time. The coroner conducted proceedings in a very sympathetic and sensitive manner. Each family was able to say something about the person they had lost.
Looking back, Matthew believes that the Foreign Office was unprepared for a major disaster on foreign soil, but did its best under the circumstances, and is now better prepared for another similar disaster.
Various members of Jemaah Islamiyah, a violent Islamist group, were convicted in relation to the bombings. In 2008 three Indonesian men were executed for their part in the bombings. Some of the key suspects have not been caught. Matthew does not believe in capital punishment and regrets that more blood has been spilt.
Matthew’s family has been devastated by Timothy’s death, but they have dealt with the situation quietly, with great fortitude. Matthew has coped without professional counselling. He takes comfort in the fact that Timothy died instantly, without prolonged suffering, and in a beautiful place.
Matthew was interviewed in January 2009.
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Matthew's brother died in the Bali bomb in 2000. Matthew was closely involved in creating a...
You mentioned memorials; you’ve got this wood, wood, where trees have been planted.
Is there a plaque there or anything?
Yes, there’s a small plaque there, and there’s a bench I think it’s you know somewhere peaceful that people can go if they want to. Quiet. And there’s also one in London on Horse Guards Road, which I was very closely involved with, with other people, because I’m a surveyor and the other people were architects, so we negotiated long and hard with heaven knows how many people. I mean I was going down to London twice a week probably for two years and we’ve got a beautiful memorial in probably one of the most prime sites in London, paid for by the Foreign Office.
Would you like to describe it, because I haven’t seen it?
It’s beautiful. It’s right outside the Foreign Office, at the bottom of Clive Steps, it’s on Horse Guards Road between St. James’ Park and the Foreign Office, it’s right between the Treasury and the Foreign Office and next door to the rear entrance to Downing Street, right by Horse Guards Parade. It is a curved wall, with, in the middle of the top, it describes what happened, and where and when. Underneath that in larger carving it’s got all the British citizens names, and then either side flanked is the name of every single other person who died, and in the middle of that, if you imagine that the curved wall is a quarter of a circle, imagine completing the circle and then the middle of the circle there’s a huge granite globe, a round ball that just sort of sits on the ground like it’s kissing the ground, and it’s got 202 doves carved into it.
Each one is different and hand carved and each one represents one person who died. So it is a beautiful, and I’ve been there several times, and every time I have been there, there have been people stopping and looking and reading it, and so you think to yourself well that was worth all the effort and…
I shall go and try and find it.
Oh it is, it is very moving and it’s in the most incredibly prestigious location, and perhaps that was my little project that sort of kept me sort of focused on things, in the aftermath, but you know we were dealing with the Foreign Office, the DCMS, Tessa Jowell we were dealing with, any other Government Department you can think of, and how many quangos are there in London? I don’t know. But you know quite apart from the, quite apart from the planning issues which were huge, we had to, we had to consult with I think 43 different interested parties.
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Matthew found that the press were sensationalist, selective and reported events out of context....
The media are horrible. I did occasionally [talk to them] and, you know, they’re sensationalist and they’re selective. It’s possible to sort of play them at their own game if you like, but they’re good if they want to get a story out of you, but they’re, they hound you. They’ll only hear what they want to hear.
You know you can say something to them which in context is perfectly reasonable but they’ll, they’ll edit it and they’ll bite chunks out of it, and it’ll tell you what they want to tell you, and that has been a little bit annoying. But I think you, you deal with them with caution, and probably through a spokesperson if you, if you’re really concerned to get your story out for whatever reason you want to do that, and you’re probably better doing it either in writing, or through a third person who can be dispassionate about it. And perhaps be a little bit more lucid, and less emotive.
Do you still get bothered with journalists?
Not really. Occasionally, I did when the executions took place a few weeks ago.
But you know they’re not interested in my, “I wish they hadn’t been killed.” They’re interested in, “They’re dead and I’m pleased,” kind of stories, which is purely to sell papers.
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Matthew describes being in Bali with his parents. He went to look for his brother in the hospital...
Right, well my brother was a solicitor working in Singapore, and he went to Bali as part of the Singapore Cricket Club Rugby team, and was killed in the Bali bombing.
He was 15 months older than I am, so he would be now 49. And he was on his own with his team mates in Bali, having left his fiancée, a Thai girl, behind in Singapore. I had spent three weeks with my brother a few weeks before he died, in Singapore with my family and we got to know his fiancée very well, and so when he went missing she phoned me to say that he was missing and that there had been this incident in Bali. And could I try and contact him, which I did, and wasn’t able to of course. Then I contacted a few of his friends who I’d met in Singapore with a view to trying to get them to establish what had happened. His employer, which was a bank based in Singapore, mobilised their own team of rescuers, because a number of their employees had been involved directly or indirectly in the explosions in Bali. I arranged with the bank to take my parents out to Bali the next day, the bombing happened on the Saturday and we found out on the Sunday morning and on the Monday or Tuesday I think, we actually left England to go to Bali. The bank offered the support that was required, the Foreign Office were of very little help at that time because they didn’t know what was going on anymore than anybody else did in fact. We were telling them what was going on because of the contacts we had in Singapore, with my brother’s employers. He was missing for about two weeks, before he was identified through dental records.
When we got to Bali with my parents, there was just me and my Mother and Father, we checked into a hotel and I immediately went around the hospitals with one of the banks security officers, looking for my brother because at that stage we didn’t know whether he was alive or badly injured or anything. So I went round the hospital and the mortuaries and saw lots of things but not my brother.
We went to a couple of the main hospitals, the Indonesians were not prepared for an event of that magnitude and they had no storage facilities for bodies. They didn’t have sufficient medical resource, and also there was a point where bodies were strewn along corridors in mortuaries and hospitals, with blocks of ice in the corner.
And within three or four days the Foreign Office and the Indonesian Coroners declared that, declared that they wouldn’t permit any visual identification because of the deterioration of the bodies.
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Matthew suggests that before people travel abroad they need to get insurance which will cover all...
Can you sum up the particular problems there are in bringing back, or finding out about somebody who’s died overseas?
Yes, well I mean from a purely practical point of view, I know I’m going to sound like the Foreign Office Website, but you need to have insurance because if you don’t have insurance then there will be an argument, and there will be a financial liability somewhere down the line.
The Foreign Office I’m sure nowadays have much more sensible procedures and will help. You need to know before you go anywhere, and I always do now, how to contact Air Ambulance, how to contact local, local you know our man in wherever it is, the Embassy or the Consulate or whatever. You need to have those details; you need to have medical insurance, and you need to be persistent. I think when, when you are involved in a situation where you have to bring a body back from overseas, the last thing you want is the burden of worrying about who’s going to pay for the coffin, and putting it on an aeroplane, when all you’re trying to contend with is your grief in having lost some, lost somebody. So if you can make sure that you’ve got all the sort of basic organisational things sorted out, then the grief will take its natural course. I think it’s where all these other complications combine with the grief to make it so much worse.
People get angry, and then start blaming everybody for things and, I can’t believe that that helps the grieving process. I know that there are a number of people who, from the Bali experience were, they perceived that they had a poor service from the Foreign Office and that, to this day they’re angry people and it’s sort of almost as if they’re blaming the Foreign Office for the, for the explosions. And that isn’t the case, you have to take a, you have to take a, I was going to say a sensible, you know, how can you be rational in those circumstances. I think you have to take a view that it isn’t anybody’s fault other than the people that pulled the trigger, or caused it and you know everybody else there is genuinely there to help. They’re not looking to stand in your way. So I think that, I know that the Foreign Office understands that grief is, has a particular effect on many people and that they have to do what they can to sort of mitigate that, and I think they do.
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The people who were executed after the Bali bomb of 2002 were not the main perpetrators. Matthew...
Do you want to say a little bit about the court case and what’s happened since then?
Well several of the people who were proven to be behind the bombings have been captured. I think some of those have been executed. The main people behind the bombings haven’t been captured. One is in Guantanamo Bay being held by the Americans. Members of the families who have suffered from the Bali bombings that I’ve spoken to have variously said that they can’t wait until the bombers or those responsible have been eradicated. I don’t take that view. I don’t think it helps anybody to be vengeful. I don’t believe in the death penalty and I think while a lot of people I can understand want to get their own back and want to see justice done and they will see it, I’m, I’d far rather a different kind of justice was carried out and that is that if somebody has committed an awful crime in the way that they have, that they should live to experience the effects of that crime. They shouldn’t be given the easy way out with a bullet through the heart which is what happened to three or four of them. But the people that have been executed were the people that played the bit roles, they’re not the, they’re not the real perpetrators.
The what roles?
They’ve only done little bits and pieces.
You know they, they’ve bought a van, to put the explosives in, they provided shelter for the bombers, now these are the people that have been arrested and found guilty and things like that. But the real, the real perpetrators are still at large, two or three of them are. One of them who isn’t at large is in American custody, so I think it’s good that justice can be seen to be done, but I think, and this relates to events such as this where they occur overseas, but you have to accept that when you go abroad, when you go to other places, in the same way that you have to abide by the rules then so do the people that live there. And if rules in somewhere like Indonesia says that okay well we, we’ll pardon you in twelve months and even though you might have killed 202 people, you’re allowed to walk free because that’s how the system works, you just have to accept that. You have to respect the judicial system wherever you happen to be, and if you don’t want to go to somewhere where you don’t like the judicial system don’t go there.
It’s that kind of thing. But I don’t think that the people involved in the bombings have been executed helps in the least. It certainly doesn’t help me. I think it’s a purely personal belief but I don’t believe in capital punishment anyway, so I think that, you know, there’s been more bloodshed split in my brothers name as far as I’m concerned, and I think that’s a retrograde kind of step. But I know, I know that there are people that were baying for blood, and have got it. And that’s going to enable them to sort of move on, I think, possibly not, because they’ll move on to the next gripe.
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After Timothy died Matthew knew that if he needed any support his family would help him. He did...
And did you get support for your own sort of feelings of grief from the other members of the Bali Victims Group or not?
You’ve not met them have you?
No. I think that’s one of the reasons why, it sounds pompous, that’s one of the reasons why I didn’t really want to go down the line of counselling and support because I saw what happened to certain people when they had it. And, you know that, that is very much a personal view but people’s reaction to these things; reactions differ depending on what kind of people they are. Everybody deals with these things in a different way and I decided for me that I would deal with it myself and I don’t have any, I don’t have any regrets, but I’m sure that there were people who did need support. I have a large family, you know, it could be that knowing that you have a large family and there being the suggestion, or the latent suggestion that there’s support there if it’s needed, is sufficient to give you the strength that you need.
The family supported each other?
Exactly, which of course is the spirit of the family I suppose. I know that there are other people who didn’t have that kind of support network, didn’t have that kind of family, maybe were on their own, maybe were very angry anyway, maybe were that kind of person, who didn’t have that kind of support and would have benefited from it.