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Balibo Five Gough's 'dark secret'

Australian Associated Press - October 21, 2014

Gough Whitlam was a good leader who made one "terrible" mistake: never acknowledging the Indonesian military's invasion of East Timor.

That's the view of the widow of Australian journalist Greg Shackleton, one of a group of reporters known as the Balibo Five killed covering the 1975 incursion.

The group also included Australian sound recordist Tony Stewart, 21; cameraman Gary Cunningham, 27, from New Zealand; and two Britons – cameraman Brian Peters, 24, and reporter Malcolm Rennie, 29.

Then-prime minister Mr Whitlam, who died aged 98 on Tuesday, had always claimed the men were killed in the crossfire between Indonesian troops and East Timorese Fretilin forces.

Shirley Shackleton is disappointed the former prime minister never contacted her personally about the journalists' deaths. She believes Mr Whitlam advocated a cover-up of events in East Timor.

"He did so much good but in this particular thing, he was appalling," she told AAP. "His ego didn't allow him to say, 'Oh God I stuffed up there'."

For John Milkins, the passing of the former Australian leader comes with poignancy and irony. It's the same day his cameraman father Mr Cunningham would have turned 67.

Mr Milkins expressed his condolences to the family of Mr Whitlam, who he said left a positive legacy on the nation on many fronts. But he's taken a "dark secret" to his grave, Mr Milkins said.

"He always had a version of events I can't agree with and neither can our family," he told AAP. "But... perhaps he's having a beer with the (journalists) now."

A NSW coroner in 2007 blamed the deaths on Indonesian special forces soldiers, but said there was no evidence to suggest Mr Whitlam or subsequent governments knew they had been murdered and had covered it up.

Mr Whitlam's passing also comes on the same day the Australian Federal Police announced it had dropped a five-year war crimes investigation into the deaths.

Source: http://www.9news.com.au/national/2014/10/21/19/13/balibo-five-gough-s-dark-secret