British families remember the dead of Bali

Tears and anger mark anniversary of al-Qa'ida atrocity that killed 202 people
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The Independent Online

Mourners gathered quietly at sunset yesterday in a Balinese church to honour the 28 Britons who died after Islamist extremists linked to al-Qa'ida set off bombs in two nightclubs a year ago today, killing 202 people.

Three people who survived the blast and members of 18 British families who lost loved ones attended the ceremony, with the Foreign Office minister Baroness Crawley representing the Government.

Candlelight vigils tonight on Kuta beach and in the grounds of the ruined nightclubs will mark the exact hour of the explosions, while the Australian government, whose citizens suffered worst in the tragedy, has organised a hillside remembrance service. For relatives, many who complained about British bureaucratic incompetence and indifference to their plight, it was a quiet time for reflection and tears.

"We knew in our hearts Natalie was gone the moment we heard about the bomb," said her mother, Sharon Perkins, from Sheffield. "She was always in the middle of the action." Natalie Perkins, 20, and her 18-year-old cousin, Laura France, had extended their backpacking holiday by a week and were among the youngest victims in the Sari Club.

"Up till now, we don't think we have been given the respect we deserve," said Mrs Perkins. "Basic mistakes were made by our officials, and they made all sorts of excuses. It was very upsetting. We have had to fight for everything. It seems the British have been at the bottom of the pile."

Sue Cooper, a spokeswoman for the UK Bali Bombing Victims Support Group, agreed. "The Foreign Office were useless. We couldn't even get through to them the night of the bomb," said Mrs Cooper, whose brother, Paul Hussey, manager of a beachside hotel, was killed.

Mrs Cooper had been torn between attending here and going to a memorial service today at St Martin-in-the-Fields in London. But she came to Bali, with her 19-year-old daughter Stephanie, who sang "The Wind Beneath My Wings" for her dead uncle and the other victims. During a minute of silence in the open-sided chapel, a muezzin's call to prayer drifted in from a nearby mosque. There are five religions on Bali, a Hindu-majority island in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country.

The Indonesian authorities have brought in heavy security for the anniversary, with hundreds of troops and sniffer dogs patrolling. Bali's police chief warned that Indonesian militants outside the island had acquired enough plastic explosive to build two bombs. He did not divulge the source of the intelligence, but analysts believe it can be traced to Hambali, the nom de guerre of Riduan Isamuddin, alleged to be the leading al-Qa'ida figure in south-east Asia.

Captured in Thailand in August with his two Malaysian al-Qa'ida lieutenants, Mohamad Farik Amin and Bashir bin Lap, Hambali has been under interrogation at a joint US-British base on Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. The trio admitted that they spent months exploring "soft targets" around the region, including the US and British embassies in Bangkok and nightclubs in tourist hotspots such as Phuket and Pattaya.

Despite the arrests and the tight security, some of those at yesterday's memorial service were fearful. Russell Ward, a fireman from Watford who volunteered to help emergency services in the aftermath of the bomb and who has devoted the past year to raising funds for the victims, said: "It's going to happen somewhere again, sadly. Best to be prepared for it."