Subject: Witness saw bodies of newsmen being burnt

Sydney Morning Herald

Witness saw bodies of newsmen being burnt

Hamish McDonald

February 9, 2007

A TIMORESE witness wept as he told an inquest yesterday how he had seen the bodies of five Australian-based newsmen in a house at Balibo, East Timor, before they were burnt.

Codenamed Glebe 3, the 56-year-old man said he had entered the village at the rear of Indonesian special forces led by then Captain Yunus Yosfiah who attacked on October 16, 1975.

Later that morning, after hearing five white people had been killed, he went to a Chinese-owned shophouse fronting Balibo's central square, and went inside. "I saw three people dying, sitting there, and two more lying there," he told the State Coroner's Court, then correcting himself that all five were dead. "They were white people."

As he answered crown counsel Naomi Sharp about his recollections, the witness began crying, and Deputy State Coroner Dorelle Pinch asked if he wanted a break from the witness box.

"You can continue, I was just showing some emotion, that's all," Glebe 3 said through a Tetum interpreter.

The soft-spoken Timorese said he had heard the dead men were Australian and were newsmen. The witness indicated where he had seen seen three bodies slumped in a sitting position under a window, and two lying in the same room, with blood on the floor. Later that day, he saw smoke billowing from the house.

The inquest is being held more than 31 years later into the death of Channel Nine cameraman Brian Peters, a British citizen resident in Sydney, killed in the attack along with colleague Malcolm Rennie and Channel Seven's Greg Shackleton, Gary Cunningham and Tony Stewart.

Earlier, another witness, who was among the last five pro-independence Fretilin soldiers defending the village, said he had seen the five trying to surrender outside the Chinese house to Indonesian soldiers and local partisans. "I saw one fall, one bald-headed man," he said, identifying this man as Brian Peters from a photograph.

This witness, codenamed Glebe 5, said he had seen the other four newsmen running back into the Chinese house as he himself started running away.

"I didn't see them [any further] but I still heard screaming 'Australian, Australian'," he said.

He had seen the five newsmen around Balibo over the two previous days, and had always seen them in civilian clothes and never handling weapons.



Back to February menu

December 2006 menu  
World Leaders Contact List
Main Postings Menu