The tough task of bringing them home

IDENTIFYING the victims of the Bali Bombings was one of the most complicated post-disaster operations Australia has ever been involved in.

Tasmania Police Commander Tony Cerritelli was part of the Australian team that flew to Bali in the days after the 2002 bombings to help the investigation.

``It was catastrophic,'' Mr Cerritelli said.

``The damage that was caused, and the extent of the damage . . . it went beyond the bomb site.''

It took six months to identify all 202 victims, including 88 Australians.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Julia Gillard and former prime minister John Howard joined the family and friends of those killed at a memorial ceremony in Bali to mark the 10-year anniversary of the disaster.

Among those families were some who, 10 years earlier, sat down with Mr Cerritelli to list details of their loved one's appearance which might lead to their identification.

``We work for the family, we have got to work hard for them because we want to make sure they can farewell their family members,'' Mr Cerritelli said. ``We take care of them.''

Mr Cerritelli joined Tasmania Police in 1986 and qualified as a disaster victim identifier in 2000.

He is currently the deputy chairman of the Australasian Disaster Victim Identity Committee and will start a two-year term as chairman later this year.

Mr Cerritelli, who also helped identify victims of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, said the post-bombing operation was particularly complex because of the level of trauma involved and the fact that body recovery and identification was occurring alongside the crime scene investigation and the ongoing threat of a follow-up act of terrorism.

Police and specialists from 30 countries joined in the task.

``We had a very good working relationship with the Indonesians,'' he said.

``There's obviously a little bit of tension when you first move into a foreign area, but eventually they realise we are all there for the same reasons.''

Mr Cerritelli and other volunteers from Tasmania searched the bomb site, worked with families and helped piece together clues to make an identification.

Investigators relied heavily on DNA, dental records and fingerprints to confirm identity.

Any match was confirmed by a specialist and certified by an Indonesian Government board.

``It's a very methodical process, and it's done that way because we can't afford to make mistakes,'' Mr Cerritelli said.

`A mis-identification would just add another layer of grief.''

Some specialists were overcome by the trauma.

``I have seen it where a couple of our people fell over because the connection was made between the victims and the families,'' he said.

``As a general rule we try to keep staff separate between dealing with the victims and families on the same case, otherwise that emotional connection is made.''

But Mr Cerritelli said the thought of the victims kept investigators focused.

``These people are innocent people who have been the subject of a terrible event. The aim is to get them back home so the families can get on and grieve.''

Tasmania Police Commander Tony Cerritelli.

Tasmania Police Commander Tony Cerritelli.


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