Bereavement due to traumatic death

Susanna - Interview 17

Female

Brief outline: Susanna lost her brother in the terrorist bombings in Bali on 12th October 2002. Dan was killed instantly and his wife was badly burnt. With other bereaved relatives she started the UK Bali Bombing Victims Group.

Background: Susanna is an architect. She is in a civil partnership and has 1 child. Ethnic background/nationality: White British

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Susanna lost her brother in the terrorist bombings in Bali on 12th October 2002. Dan was killed instantly and his wife was badly burnt. His death was confirmed three weeks later.
 
When Susanna heard about the bombings she was in a hotel in India with her partner. At first they only knew that Dan was missing, and they were not certain that he was dead. Susanna’s feelings oscillated between hope and despair. She felt a sense of disbelief and intense shock. She flew home to be with her parents while they waited for news. There was an enormous amount of confusion and disorganisation within the Foreign Office and on the ground in Bali. This made the situation very difficult for all those trying to contact relatives.
 
A Family Liaison Officer was appointed to help them. He gave Susanna’s parents mobile phones, passed on information as he received it, took DNA and tried to locate Dan’s dental records because they were needed for identification.
 
When it was confirmed that Dan had died Susannah and her partner flew to Bali to collect Dan’s body. They were met by police and other officials, and they were taken to the scene of the bombings. Susanna was hit by the smell of the carnage. She laid a wreath at the site and then went to the mortuary to see Dan. There was a short blessing ceremony at the mortuary and prayers were said.
 
Susanna flew back to the UK with Dan’s body. Dan’s funeral was held on 23rd December in a small village church. It was attended by close family members only. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered in two places.
 
Susanna was deeply affected by her brother’s death. She felt as though she had fallen through a trap door into another world. For months she found it hard to sleep and when she did sleep she had nightmares. She said that she was unprepared for the time it took for her to get back to anything like a normal life, and that there is a level of pain that never goes away. She said that, “The tragedy is still as stark and sad as the day it happened.”
 
After Dan’s funeral the Family Liaison Officer put her in touch with Victims Support. They found a counsellor who saw Susanna on a regular basis and who was helpful. In March 2003 some of the relatives of those who had died formed the UK Bali Bombings Victims Group. Relatives felt that they had not received adequate support from the Government. Many people needed financial help and long term counselling.
 
There were many practical problems which made the situation particularly difficult. Relatives had to deal with foreign agencies, who spoke other languages, in other time zones. Many relatives needed financial support as well as psychological support. The UK government had paid for the bodies to be brought back to Heathrow but no further. Many insurance companies were not prepared to help with financial costs because people had died in an act of terrorism. Relatives were not entitled to Criminal Injuries Compensation because the murders took place outside Europe. The inquest was held nine months later. The coroner found that people had died due to multiple injuries associated with the bombing.
 
The families organised a commemorative service and placed a memorial in St James’s Park for those who died in Bali on 12th October 2002. Susanna found this cathartic. She said that there is no such thing as “closure”. She has learnt to live with her brother’s death.
 
After Dan died family members set up a Charity called Dans Fund For Burns, which aims to provide swift and practical help to people who have been affected by burn injuries.
 
Susanna was interviewed in 2008.

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