It has been a cover-up, says victim's sister

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WHATEVER remains of Malcolm Rennie and Brian Peters lies thousands of miles from home in a cemetery next to a railway line in Jakarta.

Above the ground is a stone bearing the names of the two young men, and three fellow journalists, and the date of their deaths, 16 October 1975.

Below the ground is a single coffin holding four small containers the size of shoe boxes. The boxes house a jumble of burnt human remains.

When they were originally handed over, they also contained fragments of camera equipment.

For years, the official Indonesian version of their deaths, in the village of Balibo, East Timor, was that they were meaningless and incomprehensible products of a small, bitter war.

But over the years, evidence has emerged about the deaths. Almost certainly, Mr Rennie, 29, and Mr Peters, 26, did not die accidentally in crossfire, but were murdered by Indonesian "irregulars" invading the former Portuguese colony.

For years, the families of the two men had no idea what had happened. A last letter Mr Peters wrote from East Timor to his sister, Maureen Tolfree, included the words: "We've suffered a few heavy bombardments here, mainly mortars,which quite honestly frighten the shit out of me."

Since 1994, when she began to doubt the official line, Mrs Tolfree, 53, from Bristol, has led a campaign to uncover the truth. With the families of the other reporters she has harangued British, Australian and Indonesian authorities. "Of course there has been a cover-up," she said yesterday. "You can't tell me they can put men on the moon and not find out what is going on in East Timor."