Bomb victim's mother admits facing accused was tough

Maggie Stephens holding photos of her late son
Maggie Stephens described the sentencing as "surreal"

The mother of a man killed in the 2002 Bali terror attack has returned from Guantanamo Bay after watching the sentencing of two men who conspired to kill the victims.

Maggie Stephens, from Feckenham, Worcestershire, lost her 27-year-old son Neil Bowler, who was on a rugby trip and was among 28 British people killed in the two bombings.

Ms Stephens travelled to Cuba last week to deliver her victim impact statement with other families who lost loved ones.

She described the whole experience as "surreal" and "tough".

Through a plea deal, the accused will serve six years.

"I did not particularly want to look at them [the accused] but we did," she told BBC Hereford and Worcester.

"It is almost impossible to think these people were involved in what led up to their deaths."

Ms Stephens said she still thought about her late son every day.

"It is opportunities missed, a life that was absent and he is always a huge gap in all our lives," she said.

Neil Bowler aged 27
Mr Bowler was among 202 people killed in the attack

At the time of the attack, Mr Bowler was living in Singapore and working as a conference organiser for The Economist.

In her statement, Ms Stephens described him as "compassionate" with a "terrific zest for life".

She said she was in tears while she wrote it "but that, in itself, is quite cathartic".

"The only consolation I and his family have is that Neil knew nothing about what happened - standing in a bar, having played rugby - and then having a few drinks," she wrote.

Matthew Arnold also travelled to Cuba for the sentencing after losing his older brother Timothy, a solicitor, who was killed in the attack.

"We didn’t find out what had happened to him until three or four weeks after the blast. He was eventually identified through dental records," Mr Arnold said.

The Birmingham resident added he made a point of addressing his victim impact statement to the accused.

"I wanted them to know how I felt, how my family felt, and they just hung their heads, they wouldn’t acknowledge any of us," he said.

Matthew Arnold sitting in a kitchen
Matthew Arnold said he had wanted the accused to face the "highest possible sentence"

Following Ms Stephen's return from Cuba, she said: "What was important for me was for there to be accountability for Neil's death and for the other 201 people who died, and also for many more who were injured.

"And for justice to be served in whatever way it could be."

The day of the attack, 12 October 2002, was an anniversary al-Qaeda planned to mark, said BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera.

It was one year, one month and one day after the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

Two explosions were triggered - one at Paddy's Bar and another inside the Sari Club.

In the two bombings, 202 people were killed.