MARK DAVIS: It's an extraordinary evening in Dili, East Timor. The guests of honour aren't Xanana Gusmao's old friends - they are some of his oldest enemies. With the Indonesians finally gone, this evening is a night of reconciliation with East Timorese collaborators.An evening for both Falintil guerillas like Matan Ruak and Falintil hunters like Rui Lopez.An evening for those who were imprisoned and tortured by the Indonesians and for the informers and bureaucrats who assisted in their arrest.An evening for widows, unsure who to share their bitter victory with.And across the room, the man that helped start the bloody saga 25 years ago.
20:33:57:Tomas Gonsalves was the commander of a Timorese force that secretly led the Indonesian army across the border at Balibo in 1975. It was to be the beginning of years of slaughter by the Indonesians, but the blood shed on that day wasn't Timorese. It was of five journalists from Australia.The deaths of the five have been surrounded by lies and mystery ever since. The families have never known what happened to themGonsalves has been accused of having once boasted that he personally killed two of the journalists. It's a claim he denies, but he was irrefutably present during their deaths. With Indonesia gone, Gonsalves is now free to talk about what he saw and what he did in Balibo 25 years ago.
20:34:00SHIRLEY SHACKLETON (driving through devastation): Oh, it's dreadful, isn't it? It's like the Blitz. People sitting on their front steps, nothing else left.Shirley Shackelton's husband was one the journalists killed at Balibo. For 25 years, she has been told by both Indonesia and the Australian Government that the journalists were accidentally killed in crossfire.
20:35:25:SHIRLEY SHACKLETON: There's more, just sitting there. Just nothing left.For 25 years she has maintained that they were murdered.
SHIRLEY SHACKLETON: Well, first of all, the truth will out as they say. You've got to have the truth. You can't deal with murder and lies, unless you've got something to go on. You just can't. We've been lied to. These murders didn't happen officially at many levels. I just want justice. I want justice so we can get on with our lives.Shirley has come to East Timor to try to talk with Tomas as well as to investigate the death of another journalist, Roger East, who was killed just two months after the five in Balibo.
SHIRLEY SHACKLETON: I believe in the rule of law, and I want to see the perpetrators up in the witness stand telling us what they did and why they did it.August 1975, Portugal has announced that it will soon be withdrawing as the colonial ruler of East Timor.In the looming power vacuum, a brief civil war erupts between two parties - Fretilin and the UDT.By October, Fretilin are largely victorious. But on the border, Fretilin are claiming Indonesian soldiers are attacking them, posing as Timorese insurgents. And even more seriously Fretilin claimed that a full scale Indonesian invasion was imminent.Two TV news crews from Australia are sent to investigate the claims.
20:37:11:NEWSREADER (File footage): "Here's Greg Shackelton's report."
GREG SHACKLETON: "Balibo, Monday afternoon, and we're back here not much longer than 24 hours after we left."From Channel 7, Shirley's husband Greg Shackleton, 29, who arrived with two colleagues...Sound recordist Tony Stuart, just 21 and who'd begun working at the station soon after leaving school... Cameraman Gary Cunningham, a New Zealander by birth, living in Australia since he was 17 and about to celebrate his 28th birthday.
MALCOLM RENNIE (File footage): "Dili is a very changed city, compared to when Channel 9 last visited this particular part..."From Channel 9, Malcolm Rennie from Britain, 29, and on his first international assignment for the network…And cameraman Brian Peters, 26, originally from Bristol with experience in East Timor and, like Gary Cunningham, in Vietnam.
20:38:10 FRANCISCO DE OLIVEIRA (Subtitled): "One of the five journalists said he'd been in Vietnam. I can still hear the echo of his voice in my ear today. He was in Vietnam, one of the five said that. He was wearing a [thick] jacket with many pockets."Francisco De Oliveira was the driver for the journalists as they shuttled back and forth between small firefights along the border.Francisco's passengers were originally suspicious about whether Fretilin were really fighting Indonesians or just other Timorese from the UDT party.
GREG SHACKLETON (File footage): "There has been no attack today, but the 60-man Fretilin garrison is pulling back to Maliana. They have been told that Indonesian soldiers are heading this way, up the road from Batugade. Of course, when they say Indonesian soldiers, they could well mean UDT."
SHIRLEY SHACKLETON TO FRANCISCO: "Were you with them when they filmed the Indonesian ships in the harbour?"
FRANCISCO DE OLIVEIRA (Subtitled): "They saw everything, the ship that was shooting and firing during the night. I went with them up to the fort to shoot the films and then we went down to Batugade."From the hill at Balibo, the journalists could observe the Indonesian navy massing at the border, clearly providing support to a beachhead at Batugade on the coast.
20:39:41:FRANCISCO DE OLIVEIRA (Subtitled): "Because we had our informers, our intelligence coming from the west said the invasion was about to take place. The Indonesian troops were preparing over there. Because of this information they wanted to remain there to see the invasion and be ready to film it."On 16 October, the five journalists saw for themselves the first large Indonesian invasion of East Timor.At Balibo, the Indonesian army crossed the border with a token group of Timorese, led by Tomas Gonsalves, but the journalists didn't live to break the story.
20:40:24:SHIRLEY SHACKLETON: He'll be able to tell us who shot who and when, what the journalists were doing. He'll be able to put perhaps to sleep all these absurd rumours that they were wearing military garments, that they were armed, that they were fighting with Fretilin."
NEWSREADER (File footage): "Last reports say that the 7 National News and Channel 9 crews together with...
20:40:48:Despite solid intelligence about the attack and the deaths of the five, the reactions of both the Australian and British governments were extraordinarily limp - both of them compromised by a diplomatic dilemna...While the relatives waited anxiously for news, neither the Australians nor the British would challenge Indonesia's official position that it had no troops in East Timor. And if the troops weren't there then, of course, the Indonesians couldn't have killed the five. The Indonesian government arranged for a statement to be issued quoting Tomas Gonsalves. Apparently, as Gonsalves led his Timorese partisan group into Balibo, heavy gunfire came firing from a house that the journalists were staying in. Gonsalves shelled the house, instantly killing all 15 people inside - including some unknown white men who were apparently controlling the Fretilin troops. The statement was issued by the three Timorese anti-Fretilin leaders. Within months one of the three signatories, Jose Martins, fled East Timor to advise the Australian government that the account was a complete fabrication. His advice was completely ignored.
20:42:07: SHIRLEY SHACKLETON: Well, it's the obvious lies told by the Indonesian government to the Australian government and the Australian government with great alacrity accepted the lies. There was never any questioning, cross-examination. It was just "Oh, of course, they couldn't have done it. The Indonesians have told us they didn't." And I'm angry with the Australian governments over the years, who seemed to prefer trade deals than to find out what happened to their own people. They don't care about Australians, those men who were strutting around the world stage saying "I'm Prime Minister" and "I'm Foreign Affairs Minister". They didn't care about the Australians at all. It's not their family, why would they care?"Tomas Gonsalves ended his close allegiance to Indonesia last year when he refused to lead the pro-Indonesian militia movement in the lead-up to the referendum. He began leaking to the independence camp and then he fled East Timor.Tomas has agreed to meet with Shirley today and speak openly for the first time about what really happened in Balibo.
20:43:27:SHIRLEY SHACKLETON: All the families have suffered terrible consequences. It's not because of the original death - that's the interesting thing. I think all of us could have dealt with the killings, it's because of the lies and the cover-up, the not knowing. The big dark space inside that you have to poke things into, and somehow not deal with them, because what's the point of dealing with something if you don't know if it's the truth or not. You got to have a glimmer of truth there to be able to deal with it.
20:44:13:The Jakarta lobby and the lying politicians did everything they could to shut me up. I mean I even had to defend my right to ask that simple question, and today I'm going to ask it again, from someone who may be able to give me the answers. I'm nervous about it, I don't want to have too many expectations, but I feel now I am going to get some answers.
SHIRLEY TO TOMAS GONSALVES: I've waited a long time to speak to you. And I would like you to tell me what you know, please.
TOMAS GONSALVES, FORMER MILITIA LEADER (Subtitled): We came into Balibo, at precisely 6.00am in the morning, then the incident happened and the journalists died. When we took over Balibo, we the partisans were in the rear and the Indonesian commandos were at the front, from Rajawali squad and Team Susi. We didn't know there were five journalists at first. They came out three at the back and one in the front with his hands up. Before they were killed some of the journalist were in the window looking out at us as we came closer and closer. Yunus and the Rajawali guys approached the house and then they came out. Four of them, one in front, three behind.
20:46:00:SHIRLEY SHACKLETON: Would he be able to describe any of these people? Which ones were killed? Did he see them closely enough to describe them?For an hour and a half Tomas tells Shirley the details that she has waited a quarter of a century to hear. Details not just about the deaths themselves but of the days before as Tomas finalised his arrangements with the Indonesian army and the five journalists were driving towards the border.Soon after the two teams arrive in the border area, Fretilin - suspecting an Indonesian attack - withdraw from the town of Balibo.
20:46:53:FRANCISCO DE OLIVEIRA (Subtitled): The Fretilin commander named Oscar from Los Palos insisted they leave. "If you get killed we will not be responsible." They had faith that because they were journalists no-one would shoot them. They said "No problem, except for you." We feared for them and they feared for us that we would die. GREG SHACKLETON (File footage): "Something happened here last night which affected us very deeply. It was something so far outside our experience as Australians, and so inextricably interwoven with the atmosphere of this place, that we will find it very difficult to convey to you in an Australian living room, but we will try.We were brought to this tiny native village from Maliana, because we were told that Maliana was not safe at night. When we arrived, the second-in-charge, who speaks very little English, came to us and in a haunting but urgent way, said the commander wanted to speak to us, and then for the next hour, sitting on woven mats, under a thatched roof, in a hut with no walls, we were the target of a barrage of questioning, from men who know they may die tomorrow and cannot understand why the rest of the world does not care.
20:48:10:Just days before their own deaths, the two teams jointly decided to remain in an increasingly dangerous area. They would provide definitive proof that Indonesia was indeed invading. As Fretilin withdrew from Balibo the journalists drove in. It was an action which has seen them accused of causing their own deaths.
SHIRLEY SHACKLETON: I heard that "they shouldn't have been here" and I think to myself, where should they have been? Paris, London, Rome? Should they have stayed in Dili drinking gin and tonic? Their job was to come down and find out what happened and they came down. They shouldn't be criticised for that. I shouldn't have to defend them. I've even had to defend my right to ask that very simple question. What happened to my husband? I think that's shameful.
20:49:10:It has also been broadly suggested that professional competition kept them in Balibo - that the first crew to leave wouldn't be able to face their employer. It would appear that in their final days there were people that they didn't want to let down, but they weren't station executives.
GREG SHACKLETON (File footage): "Why, they ask, are the Australians not helping us? My main answer was that Australia would not send forces here. That's impossible. However, I said we could ask that Australia raise this fighting at the United Nations. That was possible. At that, the second-in-charge rose to his feet, exclaimed "Comrade journalists", shook my hand, the rest shook my hand and we were applauded because we are Australians. That's all they want, for the United Nations to care about what is happening here. The emotion here last night was so strong, that we, all three of us, felt we should be able to reach out into the warm night air and touch them. Greg Shackleton, in an unnamed village, which we'll remember forever in Portuguese Timor."Two Brits, a Kiwi and two Australians concluded the Australian flag was their best protection. Indonesian soldiers would never kill an Australian. Australia had such a special and close relationship with Indonesia.20:50:36:As Shackleton painted his country's flag as a thin defence, Tomas Gonsalves was receiving his final instructions just across the border.His Indonesian commander was code-named Major Andreas, who despite the disguise, led one of the most elite units in the Indonesian army.Tomas and his small group were about to be presented to the world as the liberators of East Timor, secretly on the back of the biggest army in the region.
TOMAS GONSALVES (Subtitled): Do you know the term "bag carrier"? We carried the rations and went in with them.The troops entered Balibo with Major Andreas at the lead. Two years ago it was revealed that Andreas's career, given the events of Balibo, had taken a rather surprising turn.Major Andreas was Yunus Yosfiah, then Minister for Information in the Indonesian government.
20:51:37:YUNUS YOSFIAH (File footage"Lateline"): It's untrue. It's untrue, totally untrue. That Yosfiah commanded the events of that day was sensational enough, but that's only half the story according to Tomas.It was Yosfiah who first opened fire on the journalists. Firing at close range, at men who were clearly surrendering and were by then surrounded entirely by Indonesian forces.
TOMAS GONSALVES (Subtitled): There were 400 from the army, the army alone, together with the partisans made 500 or 600. That was a lot of people. The truth of the shooting is that it was the army and Yunus that ended the life of the journalists.
20:52:27:SHIRLEY SHACKLETON: There was no discussion with the journalists? Why did the journalists come out? How did they know to come out?
TOMAS GONSALVES (Subtitled): Their intention in coming out was to survive. They thought they'd get protection. Yunus had other ideas, his reaction was to fire straight away. He started first. He shot first and then his followers.Shooting wildly. He started shooting and then everyone joined in. You know it's war and they all wanted promotion.There was no count, 1, 2, 3 fire. Once the firing started everyone joined in.
SHIRLEY SHACKLETON: Did you ever ask Yosfiah, or anyone else, when they were surrendering, why did you shoot them? This means "we surrender".
20:53:44:TOMAS GONSALVES (Subtitled): In the debrief they said they had to shoot them so they wouldn't publicise what they saw to the outside world. That's why they had to kill them. Because the soldiers were wearing civilian, not military clothes.Indonesia had claimed they had no territorial ambitions or plans to infiltrate… but they were already inside. What the journalists saw was Yosfiah and 400 of his Indonesian commandos trying to disguise themselves as Timorese farmers - a ruse that may have worked from a distance, but not 4 or 5 metres. The journalists were eyewitnesses to an invasion that Indonesian diplomats were furiously denying. Four of them were killed immediately and then, even more coldly, the fifth man who was still in the house.
SHIRLEY SHACKLETON: No, I'm still in shock actually. I probably will feel heaps better tomorrow. I'm still wanting to have a good cry, and it's not going to come, I know. I think I need to get drunk. Then, I don't like getting drunk, so I won't do that. By God, I could murder a gin and tonic.Balibo, a small byway just a few kilometres from the border with Indonesian West Timor.
20:55:33:SHIRLEY SHACKLETON: And they came out, one man in front with his hands up, three behind him not with their hands up and Yosfiah was standing over there and he just started shooting..
MARK DAVIS: According to Tomas?
SHIRLEY SHACKLETON: According to Tomas who was there and witnessed the whole thing. But then he didn't see what happened to the fifth man, who was in the house, but after 10 minutes or so, they went in and we don't know because Tomas was not there to give information, but we've always heard that knives were used on one, so whoever that poor fellow was that was in there for 10 minutes I suppose, petrified out of his mind, they despatched him.
20:56:34:So this is where they spent there last minutes, in this building, probably after a sleepless night, and I imagined all the time, "Perhaps, I shouldn't have stayed, I shouldn't have stayed." He wouldn't hurt a mouse, but he was either knifed to death or shot to death and the Indonesians were aided and abetted by the Australian government to get away with murder.
20:57:40:What the journalists saw and possibly filmed from this house would have not just exposed Indonesia but would have forced Australia and other nations to end their pretence of ignorance. A shift in world opinion in October could possibly have prevented the full-scale invasion and occupation of East Timor soon after.
20:58:02:SHIRLEY SHACKLETON: It would have proved Indonesia was lying and they had every intention of coming into East Timor. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if this wasn't meant to be the beginning of the invasion, and they must have stopped it when they found that they had killed the five journalists, to see what the reaction of the government was. That's why they waited and then they found to their astonishment and delight, there was nothing publicly ever said. It was all "business must go on as usual" and not an awful lot has been said since, let's be honest. So, they went ahead with the invasion.
SHIRLEY: (Asks a question in a doorway)... My name is Shirley Shackleton. My husband was murdered here in 1975.Shirley has asked questions about the death of the five for 25 years and she is still asking..20:59:03
SHIRLEY SHACKLETON (again in a doorway): I've come to try to find out, do you know anyone here who could give me information about those murders?Her questioning has embarrassed and shamed the Australian government about its silence over the deaths of the journalists and the deaths of tens of thousands of East Timorese. She constantly accused the government of supporting Indonesia's policy of genocide - a badgering she continued in East Timor itself during the Pope's tour there in 1989.
20:59:40:She's dismissed three government reports into the deaths at Balibo as cover-ups - she's had little time for a chain of foreign ministers and government officials…or them for her.In one government report into the killings released in 1996, its author Tom Sherman added an extraordinary comment.
TOM SHERMAN (File footage): Thanks to the Press Club for the invitation to speak...In a paragraph dealing specifically with Shirley Shackleton, headed "hearsay" Sherman felt inspired to quote Virgil on the nature of rumour.
21:00:20(REPORTER READS TEXT) "Shrieking through darkness she never turns her eyelids down to sleep. By day she broods, harping on lies and slander even-handedly with truth, gossip of what was done and never done."Few people had known that Sherman had such an artistic side.It was a comment which Shirley believes would have given some joy to the politicians and officials that she has seen come and go over the past two decades.
SHIRLEY SHACKLETON: It tells us that these so-called great men and these professional politicians are mealy-mouthed and nasty. They don't care about human beings. They didn't care about the Timorese, quite obviously. They didn't even care about their own people. I wonder what would have happened if one of their sons or daughters had been murdered in Balibo. I think it would have been a very different story.
21:01:24There is little doubt that Shirley has always gotten closer to the truth than any government report ever has. None of them has ever even implied that the five were deliberately gunned down. All of them relied heavily on the heat of battle or crossfire as the most likely cause of death. According to Tomas, when Indonesians approached Balibo, there was a handful of Fretilin soldiers in the garrison on the hill above the journalists' house.
21:01:57:TOMAS GONSALVES (Subtitled): We didn't confront Fretilin. Fretilin saw we were too many and they withdrew. None of them were killed. The only ones killed in Balibo on October 16 were five journalists.As Tomas and Indonesians entered the town square in front of the journalists house they were firing but Fretilin fire had completely stopped.
SHIRLEY SHACKLETON: So, there was no firing, at all?
TOMAS GONSALVES (Subtitled): No, no they withdrew. Only the five journalists were there, not even one Fretilin there. They'd left a mortar and one gun , no Fretilin. It was deserted, only the five.
21:02:53:Not only was there no crossfire but Tomas's evidence destroys the notion that the journalists were mistakenly shot in the heat of battle.As they came into the square the battle tension amongst the soldiers was high, many of them firing into the hills. And yet as the journalists came out clearly surrendering, none of the soldiers fired…they wouldn't have dared without at least a signal from their commanding officer. Probably a hundred soldiers could have shot the journalists down at that point, but they didn't. According to Tomas the one that did fire was an disciplined and experienced officer.
TOMAS GONSALVES (Subtitled): Just seconds, they'd put up there hands and then…tut tut tut. Dead .Yunus Yosfiah has recently retired as minister for information…and has refused to comment on these allegations.
21:03:40: SHIRLEY SHACKLETON: You really need to have Yosfiah. He's the one that pulled the trigger, he's the one that brought the murder team in. He's the one that started firing. He's the one that knows... he's the one that decided "We've got to get rid of the evidence". So, he's the one that will know where the remains are. He needs to be asked, but our government is too polite. With all this good relationship, that Greg put so much trust in, and that I have in a way, put trust in over the years, it still has not afforded us any answers, because our government is far too polite to ask the Indonesian government, what happened to the journalists, and that's the question that I am just going to have to go on asking, obviously.
21:04:25:Shirley has come back to Balibo to look for the remains of her husband and his colleagues.Tomas has told her that the bodies were burnt inside this house for at least two days. But it's almost impossible to burn teeth and major bones completely, and Shirley hopes that some of the older people here will remember what happened after Yosfiah's troops left.But with Indonesian militias still nearby, Balibo is still a tense place and few people want to talk openly.Translation of old man speaking: People told us they were burnt, but we don't know where. They say they were killed, not buried, just burnt.
21:05:20:SHIRLEY SHACKLETON: Well, I'm really disappointed because I just don't believe that every bit of bone was burnt and I don't believe that people would just leave them there and step over them. Whether they were burnt in here or out through there. This is now what we are told and that would seem..I don't know. But would they even bother to drag them out here. They show such disrespect they probably burnt them out the front. We know what's in the grave in Jakarta. There's nothing. It couldn't even be identified as human. It's as if they picked up a few scraps of rocks and wood and stuff and sent them off - a bit of chicken bone or something.
21:06:10:On December 5, 1975 a bizarre ceremony took place in Jakarta. After requesting the men's bodies, the Australian embassy had received a box of powdered material from Indonesian intelligence.
SHIRLEY SHACKLETON: Because I knew what was going to be disposed of, I never dreamed for a minute, that they were going to have a real funeral. An embarrassed official admitted to Shirley that the material wouldn't have filled a shoebox.
SHIRLEY SHACKLETON: The most he could say about the remains of the five journalists is that they were possibly human.Without any forensic testing at all and without any family members present, embassy staff buried the remains in a Jakarta cemetery.
21:07:05:SHIRLEY SHACKLETON: They asked me did I want to send flowers, and I thought, "Send flowers, when they are not even human and they know that, they must just going to dispose of these bogus remains." I had no idea there was a proper funeral. So, I wrote to them "No, no flowers."The flowers came from the Australian government with a card applauding the men for their "search for the truth". It would seem, a virtue best valued in others. For the master of ceremonies, Australian Ambassador Richard Woolcott, there was apparently no irony in burying the remains in Indonesia, because of course, Indonesia hadn't killed them, they weren't even there.And yet just two weeks after the five were killed, Richard Woolcott had written to his minister: "Although we know it is not true, the formal position of the Indonesian government is still that there is no Indonesian military intervention in East Timor.If the minister said or implied in public that the Indonesian government was lying, we would invite a hurt and angry reaction."It would seem that the hurt and anger was to be reserved for the families.
21:08:17:SHIRLEY SHACKLETON: Unfinished, dirty business, very dirty business, made worse by lies that came from my own countrymen. Somehow I expected it from Indonesia, but not from Australia.The earth had barely settled when the government received confirmation of rumours that at least some of the bones had been souvenired.Jose Martins was one of the three signatories to the official account about how the five died. Just five months after the killings, Martins fled East Timor to tell the Australian government that he not only had some of the bones, but that the journalists were murdered.
21:09:04:TOMAS GONSALVES (Subtitled): There was a piece of bone that Jose Martins picked up.Tomas confirms that Jose Martins arrived within two hours of the journalists deaths and was fully brief by him and the Indonesian military commanders.In this affidavit dated April 1976, Martins gave accurate accounts of what had occurred in Balibo. He wrote this document because he had been ignored and sent away by Australian officials in Lisbon, Geneva, and finally in Australia itself. In the same month that Martins was having doors firmly shut on him, sparing any hurt or anger to Indonesia, a team of Australian officials were sent to East Timor to record obvious and well-rehearsed lies.Indonesia had given permission for Tomas Gonsalves to be interviewed. It was a meeting with the most senior intelligence officer in East Timor was clearly desperate to overhear.
21:10:12:TOMAS GONSALVES (Subtitled): Colonel Sinaga put on a pair of shorts and was pretending to serve us food...This pantomine became the basis of Australia's official position that the five were killed accidentally.
TOMAS GONSALVES (Subtitled): ...like a servant.Meanwhile, Jose Martins was sent away and went into exile in Portugal. It was to be 20 years before Australia wanted to speak with him.In 1996, Tom Sherman travelled to Portugal to interview Martins and others:Sherman text on screen: "I endeavoured to interview Jose Martins during my visit to Portugal in April 1996, but he was unable to meet me."Apparently, after the Sherman inquiry was announced Martins made contact with old acquaintances in Jakarta. According to Tomas, Martins was mysteriously murdered when he returned there, just a few months later.
21:11:10:The families of the men killed have been denied the simple truth about what happened here for 25 years.But one journalist got a remarkably accurate account just three weeks after it happened. Freelancer Roger East, disgusted with the government reaction and the tame response of the media, left his job in Darwin to investigate:Text on screen: "The other Australians were screaming 'Australians, Australians' with their hands up...we heard the Australians screaming and there was a burst of automatic fire."East went to uncover what happened to the five, and stayed to witness the invasion of Dili - the official takeover of East Timor, two months after Balibo.
21:11:40:SHIRLEY SHACKLETON: By some terrible, horrible turn of fate, he found out what happened to the Australian journalists, because the same thing happened to him - he was murdered. People say him being dragged along with his hands behind his back, tied with wire, being bayonetted, and this beach that we are sitting on here now, it was strewn with hundreds of bodies. People were just brought here and shot, but he was...we have always believed he was taken on to the wharf and shot with some women.By the beginning of December, a week before East was to die, it was clear that Indonesia was about to invade. Journalists and aid workers began to flee Dili, leaving the people there to their fate.At 53, East vowed to stay on as the last journalist in Dili, to report on a nation abandoned. But even then, Australian papers largely refused to print his reports.He planned to be the only international witness to the invasion and then retreat with Fretilin into the mountains to report on their guerilla war.
21:12:47:SHIRLEY SHACKLETON: He was a loner, but I would say he is the most... he's a hero of incredible proportions. You see, the five went down there to get that story with the Indonesians coming across the border, and then they were coming home. But Roger had decided virtually to dedicate his life...to risk his life to stay and go up to the mountains, which anyone could tell you would be grim.
JOAO PEREIRA CALADO: Only last journalist in Timor, in Dili, only Roger East.Joao Calado was one of the last people to see Roger alive.Joao has worked at the Hotel Turismo for 30 years and he said goodbye to Roger when he drove into the night on the evening of December 6.
JOAO PEREIRA CALADO: Maybe see you tomorrow, or see you later.The night Roger left the Turismo, the shelling of Dili began and the next morning, Indonesian paratroopers began raining down on the capital.
21:13:50:JOAO PEREIRA CALADO: Four o'clock in the morning, then we never see Roger East coming back.
SHIRLEY SHACKLETON: What kind of clothes was he wearing, when you gave him his dinner, can you remember?Joao has told others about the last time he saw Roger, but now that the Indonesians have gone, he tells the full story for the first time, particularly about what Roger was wearing when he drove away.
JOAO PEREIRA CALADO: Uniform clothes.
SHIRLEY SHACKLETON: Uniform, what Fretilin uniform?
JOAO PEREIRA CALADO: Yes, forces.
SHIRLEY SHACKLETON: Forces, Portuguese forces uniform, you mean?
JOAO PEREIRA CALADO: Yes, yes.
21:14:30:From his investigation of Balibo, East knew there was no point in raising his hands and surrendering. He knew he could expect no assistance from his government and probably no sympathy from Australian newspapers, who'd been largely dismissive of him. East knew that it would be just him and the Timorese that would face the onslaught, and it appears that he made a remarkable decision - to fight his way out of Dili if he had to.
JOAO PEREIRA CALADO (Subtitled): He was carrying a gun, a G3. He had grenades on him, and down his legs.
21:15:15:(Not subtitled): He was armed as he left. He left seven o'clock in the night and he had already uniform and gun, and grenades tied.
REPORTER: He must have known that the invasion had happened.
SHIRLEY SHACKLETON: But it's interesting, because when he was packing to come here, his brother put in a gun and said "Take this with you, it sounds serious." And he said "No. I've never needed a gun before. I need my typewriter and nothing else." So, he had a complete change. I suppose when he decided to withdraw, he realised he had to be quite different in what he was going to be doing.It's unclear where East went that night, but it's believed he was executed the day following the Indonesian invasion.Several witnesses report that a white man was seen screaming abuse and spitting at his captors, as he was taken to the wharf. He was shot, and his body pushed into the sea.
21:15:55:JACINTO DE OLIVEIRA (Subtitled): There were many (bodies) all along the shore, over near the shipwreck there. There were lots washed up along the shore. Dead bodies, dead bodies.Jacinto de Oliveira and his brother-in-law Tito, were given the task of cleaning up the bodies from the beaches and streets of Dili in the wake of the assault.
21:16:48:TITO DE OLIVEIRA (Subtitled): "ere were many bodies of mixed race, Chinese, Timorese, Indonesians, lying along the road. I had a stick and petrol to burn the bodies. I moved the limbs with the stick and prayed...I know I should not burn you, but I've received orders.On about 13th December, Jacinto and Tito found the body of a white man, reddish hair, and thick-set, like Roger East.He was the only European known to have died in Dili. If the body that Jacinto found is East, it would appear that he changed out of the battle dress that he was seen leaving the Turismo in, including civvies, including a jacket with pockets "like journalists wear", according to Tito.
21:17:37:TITO DE OLIVEIRA (Subtitled): We parked the car here and the body was over there.
SHIRLEY SHACKLETON: What age was the body that you saw?
TITO DE OLIVEIRA (Subtitled): I thought it might be Chinese. I was about to leave and thought I'd have a better look. Then, I saw the shoes, like a white man's, then the white man's jacket. And then I saw the red hair and I knew it was a white man.The body was buried under what is now a footpath. When the wall was built in the 1980s, bones were found here. Jacinto and Tito doubt that the bones would have been removed...there's a lot of bodies buried in this part of Dili.
21:18:41:SHIRLEY SHACKLETON: It's a long way from the wharf, from here.
21:18:45:The body found is at least 60 metres behind the wharf where East was shot. But a reference in the Sherman report provides a clue as to why East's body may well be inland.One witness, code named 'P2' claimed that Roger was captured in an apartment above a Chinese shop known as Toko Lai. East had friends at the Toko Lai and the apartments were ironically referred to as the Australian Embassy.
21:19:12:The body that was buried here is immediately beside the Toko Lai apartments. If it is East, it would seem that someone risked their own life to drag him or his body back here, back home to safety, back to the ‘Australian Embassy’.
TITO DE OLIVEIRA (Subtitled): Later we saw someone had laid down stones, stones all around it with candles and flowers.Candles and flowers as Indonesian commandos rampaged through Dili. Someone was brave enough to give this man a respectful burial after a disgraceful death.
21:19:58:SHIRLEY SHACKLETON: This is the sort of unfinished business that leaves families in absolute horror, and it leaves those poor men who are telling us about this today, they'll be having nightmares tonight, I know. And you can see there are tears in their eyes all the way through our interview with them, but they are managing not to let it show too badly, and in a way, it's a relief for them to talk. It's a relief for me to think that perhaps Roger is there, but it just isn't good enough is it? It just isn't good enough.Whoever may have plucked Roger's body from these waters and buried him at the doorstep of a place he frequented, and knew fondly as the Australian Embassy, did more than the Australian Government has ever done for Shirley, her son and four other families. All they have to cling to is something possibly human in a Jakarta cemetery, and the only thing that has been truly buried has been the truth itself.