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Last Updated: Monday, 5 December 2005, 11:38 GMT
Seeking answers to tsunami tragedy
Alan Jones, like many relatives of Britons killed in the tsunami, is making a "pilgrimage" back to the scene of the death to mark one year since the disaster.

Charlotte Jones
Charlotte Jones died in Racha Yai, south of Phuket

He and wife Liz are travelling to the island of Racha Yai, south of Phuket in Thailand, where his daughter Charlotte died at the age of 23.

Charlotte, from Petersfield, Hampshire, was on a gap year trip that started in India before taking her to Thailand. She planned to move on to Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Australia and New Zealand before tragedy struck.

Still devastated about the loss of their "special daughter", and desperate for more information about the circumstances of her death, they feel compelled to make the difficult journey to Thailand.

"In a sense, we're still in disbelief, in shock, we really don't understand why it's happened, how it happened and why us," he told BBC News.

"People go out on holidays to Thailand but, for us, it's like a pilgrimage.

Alan Jones
We feel we have to go because there are many questions that we just don't have the answer to
Alan Jones

"When people say 'have a great trip to Thailand' I don't think they really understand what all this is all about."

With preparations for the visit coming together, Mr Jones says a mass inquest into the deaths of 93 British tsunami victims, including Charlotte's, could not have come at a worse time.

The four-day London hearing begins on Monday.

"For the families, at least, this could be quite an insensitive time as... because of the anniversary, this is a difficult time for us and I do know for a fact that a lot of families have declined to attend," he said.

"I do think it's insensitive because we are gearing up to go to Thailand in mid-December and we're beginning the arrangements for the visit and, in a way, this is a distraction.

Unanswered questions

"I personally would have preferred it if it was in late January next year but we feel we have to go because there are many questions that we just don't have the answer to."

To make matters worse, Mr Jones says, his family were only told about the inquest two weeks ago.

"Our Metropolitan Police family liaison officer called a couple of weeks ago and said 'I need to talk to you about the inquest'.

It was...felt that it would be sensitive to hold the inquest before the one year anniversary to allow families some sort of closure
Hammersmith and Fulham spokeswoman

"We said 'what inquest'?"

Mr Jones also says the families of victims have not been involved in the inquest process at any stage.

"It would have been nice to have more notice and to have some explanation of why the inquest is being held and what it is about and what it hopes to achieve."

A London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham spokeswoman said: "The date of the inquest was decided by a number of factors, which included availability or suitable premises and the court calendar.

"It was also felt that it would be sensitive to hold the inquest before the one year anniversary to allow families some sort of closure following the tragic events of last December."

Despite his complaints, Mr Jones and his wife are hopeful they can find out more from the inquest, as well as from their visit to Thailand, about their daughter's death.

"I just don't know whether we'll ever know what happened to our daughter.

"Our daughter was in her gap year and she hasn't come home and we want to know what happened to her."




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