How mountain rebels killed Britons Carnage in the forest

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The Independent Online
THE FOOTAGE had been taken by a hand-held camera and it showed a campsite in utter disarray - torn, empty tents, strewn belongings discarded by people leaving in a rush. It was silent and lifeless.

It was from this jungle camp on the edge of the Impenetrable Forest in Uganda's Bwindi National Park that four British tourists were abducted and murdered with machetes by Hutu rebels.

Yesterday at an inquest into the deaths, the victims' relatives broke down as they were shown the footage. "It's a complete disaster for the families and it will take many years, if indeed, ever, to come to terms with the deaths," said the West Sussex coroner, Roger Stone. "I am sure if you keep them in your hearts you will not really lose them."

The inquest in Crawley was told that Martin Friend, 24, from Orpington, Kent, Steven Roberts, 27, from Edinburgh, Mark Lindgren, 23, from St Albans, Hertfordshire, and Joanne Cotton, 28, from Essex, were among more than 30 tourists abducted by Interahamwe death squads while on holiday in Uganda last March. They had travelled there to see the region's mountain gorillas. Four other Western tourists were also killed.

The inquest heard that the tourists had been dragged from their tents at dawn on March 1 by up to 150 armed rebels who had shot and bludgeoned their way past armed bodyguards.

They separated the British and Americans from French speakers. The inquest heard that while the French government had supported the Hutus during the internal strife in neighbouring Rwanda, London and Washington had backed the Tutsis. The French speaking tourists were then freed.

Detective Superintendent Ken Woodward, one of several Metropolitan Police officers who had travelled to Africa to investigate the killings, said: "The Interahamwe obviously targeted the tourist camp at Bwindi but their initial action seemed to indicate that they intended to steal or loot."

The inquest saw footage of the trail the tourists were led along. It was during this journey that the rebels inflicted their savagery. The bodies of Americans Rob Haubner, 48, and his wife, Susan Miller, 42, were found one mile from the camp. A little further along the trail were the bodies of Miss Cotton, and the New Zealanders Michelle Strathern, 26, and Rhonda Avis, 27, who lived with her husband, Mark, in London.

Close to the Rwandan border, the rebels split in two. One group released its hostages, the others were killed. The bodies of Mr Friend, Mr Roberts and Mr Lindgren were found together.

Dr Iain West, a pathologist who examined the four British tourists, said: "They were deliberately inflicted, violent injuries. None were hacked to death, none were mutilated as such." The coroner recorded a verdict of unlawful killed.