The trial of Pol Pot's most notorious lieutenant ended this week, but Olympic rower Rob Hamill will not rest till he gets answers from the man responsible for the torture and death of his brother.

If Rob Hamill gets his way, he will shut himself in a room with a 67-year-old man responsible for unspeakable atrocities and ask him the details of what happened to his oldest brother Kerry.

The trial of Kaing Guek Eav, known as Comrade Duch, ended this week, but for the Hamill family the pain of wondering what their brother went through during two months of torture at S-21, the Khmer Rouge's torture centre, Tuol Sleng, will never end.

Rob, who in August sat for an hour in a Phnom Penh courtroom, slowly and deliberately spelling out the tragic effect Kerry's death had on his family, plans to go back when Duch is sentenced next year.


He has asked his lawyer to arrange a meeting so he can eyeball the S-21's commander and ask him a series of questions - with answers which he dreads hearing.

The questions are gruelling. What sort of torture did Kerry, 27 at the time, endure? And how exactly did he die after he signed a "confession" in October 28, two months after he was captured and taken to Tuol Sleng?

Was Kerry, or any of the handful of Westerners imprisoned, put inside tyres, covered in petrol and burned alive? And where are Kerry's ashes or body so he can visit that place?

"I want to know the truth about my brother. I am certain he [Duch] knows the truth. It's just nonsense to say he doesn't remember him."

Back in the Waikato, Rob is struggling with the concept of forgiveness. When he travelled to Cambodia in August to give evidence and face Duch, he hoped he would be able to forgive the man who commanded a death camp that brought so much pain and misery to so many.

Then he visited Tuol Sleng, to see for himself the instruments of torture, the tiny, dark cells where people like Kerry were held. There he saw paintings that he cannot forget. Of the few to survive S-21 were a handful of artists, kept alive to paint Pol Pot's portrait.

Those artists later painted scenes of what went on at S-21, how those instruments were used to bring unimaginable pain and suffering to the prisoners.

"It was just horrible, seeing those paintings. That was the moment I realised I could never forgive him." What Duch and his henchmen did was "heinous ... unforgivable", he says.

And there was another moment which caused the concept of forgiveness to abandon him. Sitting in court, Rob looked up to find Duch staring intently at him.

Rob remembers staring back for about 10 seconds before Duch finally looked away. It was not a look of remorse or regret, he says.

Rob rejects Duch's defence lawyers' arguments that the former prison chief is remorseful and that his guilty plea should earn him some leniency. He says Duch showed no leniency to Kerry or the other victims.

For that reason, Rob wants Duch imprisoned for life. Cambodia does not have the death penalty, and Rob says for him that is not an option anyway. But one week, even one day taken off Duch's sentence would be a victory for his brother's torturer, he says.


of Kerry's loss and the circumstances of his death are always there. It tormented Rob as he rowed - exhausted and sleep-deprived - across the Atlantic Ocean in 1997 with the late Phil Stubbs.

They won the race - eight days ahead of the next boat in. The year before, Rob had represented New Zealand at the Atlanta Olympics and won medals at international rowing regattas.

Tough, disciplined, competitive, but still no closure. That will never come, he says. Nor can the damage to his family life be undone. His teenage years were destroyed, his family torn apart.

His loathing for the man in charge of a prison, where up to 17,000 people were tortured and murdered, is never far from the surface. Rob told Duch in court: "At times I have wanted to 'smash' you - to use your words - in the same way that you 'smashed' so many others. At times I have imagined you shackled, starved, whipped and clubbed viciously. I have imagined your scrotum electrified, being forced to eat your own faeces, being nearly drowned and having your throat cut."

He wanted the crushing weight of the anger, grief and sorrow he and others felt to be placed on Duch's head: "It is you who should bear the burden alone." Rob told the Cambodian his actions "removed you from the ranks of being human".


went missing, Rob remembers a happy, tight-knit family waiting at home in Whakatane for news of their eldest son and brother, who was sailing his sloop, Foxy Lady, in Southeast Asia. During his testimony, Rob showed photographs of the family life he talked about.

The family waited and slowly the dynamics changed. Rob, 14 at the time, started drinking heavily and his schoolwork suffered. His 15th and 16th birthdays were muted affairs, overshadowed by the family's worry over the missing Kerry.

Then, in January 1980, a neighbour told them to buy a newspaper. Rob went to the local shop with his brother John, and there it was - Whakatane yachtsman Kerry Hamill had been captured and executed by the Khmer Rouge after his yacht strayed into Cambodian waters. He had been taken to S-21, tortured for at least two months until he wrote a confession, then killed.

Life then changed drastically and tragically for the Hamills' parents, Esther and Miles, and their four remaining children, John, Peter, Sue and Rob. John, a year younger than Kerry and his close mate, grew argumentative and violent. Eight months later he took his own life, throwing himself off a cliff. He too was 27 when he died. Miles and brother Peter found his body on rocks below the cliff.

Miles was so distressed that a doctor came in the night to administer sedatives. Says Rob in his court testimony: "He did not, could not, attend the funeral of John, his second son. It was simply too much for him."

Looking directly at Duch, he told him "When you killed my brother Kerry, you also killed my brother John. The effect of these two devastating losses on our family simply cannot be measured. They were massive and incomprehensible."

The previously outgoing and active Hamill family had been virtually destroyed "along with Kerry at S-21".

No one could have dreamed that Kerry's great OE would end so brutally. After cyclone Tracy devastated Darwin, Kerry headed there to earn money to buy his own yacht and sail around the world. He bought the 28-foot sloop Foxy Lady with a Canadian friend, Stuart Glass.

While in Darwin, Kerry met Gail Colley, who became his girlfriend and eventually the woman with whom he planned to spend his life.

The monthly letters that arrived home told of Kerry, Gail and Stuart's colourful adventures. The last letter, from Singapore, arrived in July 1978. After that the silence was deafening.

Gail had left the boat in Singapore to visit her family, planning to join Kerry in a couple of months, while he, Stuart and an Englishman, John Dewhirst, made for Bangkok.

Piecing together what happened, the Hamills think Foxy Lady was blown off course into Cambodian waters and took shelter behind an island. A gunboat approached the yacht, opened fire, and Stuart was shot and later died. Kerry and Dewhirst were captured and taken to S-21.

The Hamills waited 16 long months for news of their brother, with Esther staring out to sea and saying: "It's okay, he'll turn up for Christmas to surprise us." Instead, the shocked family read of his fate in the local newspaper. As far as Rob and his siblings know, the New Zealand Government had neglected to tell his parents the news. "They seemed as shocked as we were."

And with the news came a gnawing new horror - what had Kerry suffered, for how long, and how had he died? The methods at S-21 were gruesome, and Westerners were singled out and tortured until they admitted to being CIA spies.

It was Duch's job to protect the party and to extract confessions. Dewhirst wrote a "confession" after three weeks and, the Hamills believe, was executed some time after that. Kerry hung on for two months, and it is that eight weeks of unimaginable suffering that haunts Rob, that makes him struggle with the concept of forgiveness.

If there is any comfort to be had, it is the thought that right to the end, Kerry was still lucid, still able to make a mockery of Duch and his confessions without his captors knowing. Kerry's statement in October 1978 is laced with clues and messages for his family, mixed with humour.

He wrote that Colonel Sanders (of the chicken fame) was one of his "superiors", the home number in Whakatane was his CIA operative number and scattered through as members of the CIA are family friends - Colonel Perram was Miles Hamill's gliding instructor, Captain Dodds was an old friend of Kerry's from Whakatane. The public speaking instructor, "Mr S. Tarr", was Esther, Kerry says.

"He was sending a message to our mother. A message of love and hope. And it was as if whatever the final outcome, he would have the last say."

Rob believes Kerry, "my gorgeous, beautiful brother", would not have succumbed easily, that the torture and mistreatment would have made him "angry to the point of outrage", that his will to live would have been evident.

"Then I think there must have been stages when he felt that it was useless to resist," he says in his testimony. "I have wondered how Kerry felt in those days in prison, deprived of food and water, dehumanised beyond belief, and tortured." Rob wonders if his brother considered suicide as "a welcome relief" from the death camp.

And still the question - how did it end? "At best," he told the court, "my brother was blindfolded, taken out of the compound to a pre-dug trench, made to kneel down beside it, hit over the head with a metal bar, his throat slit, then buried." At worst, he was burned alive.


other side of the world, the suffering of Kerry's family was only just beginning. His parents became depressed, his father weeping alone at night in the kitchen.

Numbed by grief, the Hamills struggled to offer comfort to each other. Gail Colley was devastated by the news of Kerry's torture and death, Rob says. She has never married, or had children.

Now Rob wants to make sure lessons are learned from regimes like the Khmer Rouge and its leader Pol Pot, a four-year period of history that inspired the 1984 movie The Killing Fields, but may well be forgotten. Rob told the court that if there was anything to come from Duch's trial it was that the world "takes notice of the evil that can happen when people do nothing".

On the outside, the man who represented New Zealand in rowing for 16 years and is still busy organising events looks like someone who has his life together. But talk to him about his three sons, Finn, 7, Declan, 5, and Ivan, 2, and there are signs that lessons learned a long time ago affect him still.

He is uneasy about sending his boys to school. Finn was home-schooled until recently, and Rob is not happy with him being in "someone else's hands for six hours a day".

If work commitments allowed, Rob would keep his boys at home, where they will be loved and safe. He worries about having no control over what happens to his children when they are out of his sight. "There is a huge opportunity to destroy a child. I want them to spend time with people they love."