Family s quest for answers
Remembering: Tim and Lhani Davies with Rosalind Jay. Picture: Steve Pennells/ The West Australian

The twin-engine turboprop had just touched down at Lombok international airport when Lhani Davies felt raw anger well up inside her.

She looked out of the window and said to herself: "My son just left here three weeks ago. This is the place that killed him.

"I just felt sick. I felt sick to the guts," she said later, trying to explain the sudden hatred that came over her.

"I could feel myself winding up and winding up and winding up."

Three weeks earlier, the Perth mother's ordeal had begun when she clutched her husband Tim - shattered and unbelieving - as a Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital specialist told them that the life of their 19-year-old son Liam could not be saved.

His body had been airlifted from Lombok, ravaged by methanol poisoning and the diagnosis hadn't come quick enough, they were told. He was brain dead and the pair had to make the heartbreaking call to turn off his life support.

As Liam lay motionless in intensive care with a lacrosse jumper at his feet and his passport under his pillow with two Kiwi feathers brought from New Zealand by his aunt, the couple watched as medical equipment was turned off and life faded from their son.

Tim said he knew the medical reality of the situation and told himself that his feelings weren't logical. But as this was all happening, he couldn't help the panic sweeping over him.

"What have I done . . . I've just killed my son," he thought.

The tragedy should have ended there.

But the month since has been frustrated by Australian consular ambivalence, ignorance by Indonesian police, contradictory statements from both countries about an investigation into what happened and evidence from _The West Australian _that the bar that poisoned their son was still serving drinks laced with methanol.

So last week, Tim and Lhani Davies decided to head to Lombok for answers.

"I'd been in Bali and we'd always embraced local people," Lhani said of the anger she felt when they arrived.

"But I didn't want to speak the language. I didn't want to spend a cent. I didn't want to give them anything."

She said it wasn't until she got in the car with her husband and drove along the winding green roads to Sengiggi, that she started to calm down.

"When we started that beautiful drive, I thought that this is what Liam loved about Lombok," she said. "This is what we loved about Lombok.

"Liam thought this place was close to heaven. He loved this place.

"He never ever thought this would be the place that would kill him."

Tim and Lhani returned to Lombok for two reasons. One, to push for what should have seemed obvious - an investigation into who had poisoned their son.

The second, to meet Rosalind Jay, the 18-year-old Canadian student whom Liam had befriended in his final days and who was also poisoned as the pair saw in the new year at Rudy's Bar on the party island of Gili Trawangan, north-west of Lombok.

Rosalind came from Canada prepared to file an official police statement after getting brushed off by the Australian Consulate. Tim and Lhani wanted Indonesia's health department to mount a wider investigation and push for change.

The group clutched piles of paperwork - a statement from Rosalind which outlined the night she and Liam were poisoned - along with Liam's medical records, death certificate and a photograph of him in ICU.

Under her right arm, Lhani clutched a series of front pages from _The West Australian _, determined to show Lombok police and the Governor that there was enough evidence to mount an investigation and enough publicity to damage Lombok's tourist industry.

For two days last week, a series of frustrating attempts to meet Lombok officials fell through and Indonesian police hit them with a staggering claim that yes, they had gone to the island to do a two-day investigation but no, they didn't get anywhere because they didn't know the name of the bar allegedly responsible. They claimed the Australian Federal Police had withheld this critical information, along with other key details of Liam's death.

But a breakthrough finally came on Wednesday, when Lombok police agreed to go to the island with Tim, Lhani and Rosalind, take statements from the three of them and take a sample of alcohol from the bar.

By yesterday, the results of their tests had still not come through.

Last night, as Tim and Lhani flew back to Perth, they said they chose to be optimistic.

On their last night in Lombok, as sun set over the fishing boats at Sengiggi beach, Rosalind, who had known Liam's parents for a only few days, instinctively rested her head on Lhani's shoulder.

Returning to Lombok to help push for an investigation and getting a chance to meet Liam's parents had given her a sense of closure, she said.

For Tim and Lhani Davies, closure is further away.

When their son died, the couple took his body back to their house in Marmion. They laid his open coffin on the rug in the loungeroom where he had often fallen asleep.

In line with the tradition of the family's Samoan roots, his body stayed in the room for three days and was never left alone.

Tim and Lhani slept alongside their son's body on the first night. On the second night they were joined by one of Liam's friends, a cousin and an aunt. A fresh lei was prepared and put around his neck each day.

In normal circumstances, this ritual would have ended with Liam's body being returned to his homeland. But despite his New Zealand pride, Tim and Lhani said his home and friends were in Australia, where he had been since he was three. More than 600 people went to the funeral, the biggest crowd of mourners the funeral director had seen.

So they decided to cremate their son.

The coffin was Kawasaki green and one of the kiwi feathers that had been under his hospital pillow was put in his pocket so he could take a piece of his homeland with him.

On the 12-month anniversary of his death, tradition dictates that an unveiling should take place, normally of a headstone. The anniversary of his death is a long way away. But for now, Tim and Lhani think they will take Liam's two brothers to the hill on their grandparents' farm on New Zealand's North Island that Liam used to climb.

"Perhaps we'll go set it up there," Lhani said.

It is not the only part of their son's death that, for now, remains unresolved.


The West Australian

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