Hunting Bali bombers


Arthurs Pt man’s crucial part in tracking the extremists who killed 202.

On the eve of his book launch, a Queenstown-based businessman has spoken for the first time about his part
in snaring the terrorist masterminds behind the 2002 Bali bombings.

When Graham Butchart took photos of the devastation scene from a helicopter the morning after the deadly October 12 attacks, he’d no idea they’d provide vital clues leading to the capture of Islamic extremists who’d planned the outrages.

As the then-boss of a large Bali tourism firm, Butchart had jumped in a company chopper to view the site where 202 people – including three Kiwis and 88 Australians – were killed and a further 209 injured.

Amazingly, the snaps proved crucial to identifying the vehicle that contained a large car bomb detonated near popular nightclubs in the tourist district of Kuta.

Evidence gleaned from the pictures led to the arrest of Amrozi Nurhasyim – known as Amrozi – one of three people executed by firing squad last November for their part in the bombings.

Butchart, 61, now runs Canyons Country Lodge in Arthurs Point and has written a book, Acrobats of Reason, about his experiences on the Indonesian holiday island, where he lived for 20 years.

He recalls the Bali bomb­­­ings and their aftermath as if it was yesterday.

“That night I had been at home watching English soccer on the TV and felt the house shaking,” Butchart says. “It wasn’t until the next morning I knew something pretty major had happened and I got over there in a helicopter.”

But Butchart was unprepared for the scale of the massacre scene below.

At 11.05 the previous night, a backpack-mounted device carried by a suicide bomber was detonated inside Paddy’s Pub and 15 seconds later a much bigger car bomb had been set off by another suicide terrorist outside the nearby Sari Club, leaving a metre-deep crater.

A smaller device had been detonated outside the United States Consulate in Denpasar.

“There was nothing left where the Sari Club used to be and roofs had been blown off buildings in the surrounding areas,” Butchart says.

“It was very shocking.”

But Butchart’s self-taken photos handed investigators a lucky break.

After studying the images, eagle-eyed experts flown in from Australia stumbled across the gearbox from the Mitsubishi that contained the bomb – and serial numbers found on the parts then uncovered a trail that led to the door of Amrozi, who had bought the van and explosives.

It turned out that bits from the vehicle had blown a hole in the tin wall of a building a few hundred metres from the carnage site, but the damage had been covered over soon afterwards and it was missed by cops.

Butchart’s early morning snaps were the only ones available that showed the area before any repair work had started. They proved invaluable in eventually leading investi­gators to the site of the numbered van parts which had been chucked in a yard to rust by the unsuspecting owners of the damaged building during the clean-up.

“I was really pleased to have been of some help,” he says.

“The evidence that came from those pictures certainly sped up the capture of those responsible and I believe they have also been used by the FBI and Scotland Yard for research into bombing methods used by terrorists.”


Quick exit after death threat

Former tourism boss Graham Butchart left Bali not long after the 2002 bomb­ings, fed up with increasing corruption and violence.

“Gangsters were hijacking businesses and I had to hire bodyguards after a guy tried to knife me to death on my way to work one morning,” he says.

“The bombings proved the final straw and I eventually got out, even though I lost everything I’d worked so hard to build up.

“I then decided to write a book based on my experiences.”

Aussie-born Butchart spent four years penning his self-published debut novel Acrobats of Reason, which has already attracted interest from a New York-based movie script company.

He and wife Sue moved to Queenstown last January to take over the Canyons Country Lodge at Arthurs Point.