Brother's death motivates Hamill

SUE FEA
Last updated 11:43 04/12/2013
Rob Hamill
SUE FEA/Supplied

Child Cancer Foundation board member Jim Boult, right, with wife Karen, a foundation member, and special guest Rob Hamill at the foundation's gala dinner at the Skyline Restaurant.

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Rowing champion Rob Hamill's story is both heartwarming and heartbreaking.

Winner of the first Trans-Atlantic Rowing Challenge, with the late Phil Stubbs, and an Olympic rowing champion, Hamill now spends his days inspiring others.

His catchcry is ''follow your passion and believe anything is possible''.

An entertaining and inspiring motivational speaker, Hamill was in Queenstown to recount his incredible story to Child Cancer Foundation members at their annual conference in the resort this month.

Hamill's oldest brother Kerry was captured, tortured and imprisoned in Cambodia in 1978 by Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge, before being murdered.

A good-looking young Kiwi boy enjoying his OE, Kerry Hamill was running paid boat charters around the Indonesian islands when his boat was blown off course into Cambodian islands during a charter from Singapore to Bangkok.

Hamill now devotes a large chunk of his speaking engagements and work towards raising awareness of the atrocities of the Pol Pot regime, which resulted in two million men, women and children, murdered or starved.

It was an ''incredible privilege'' to testify in court against the leader of his brother's prison Duch, in 2009.

Sadly, Hamill's other older brother took his own life, nine months after the Cambodian tragedy.

''For us, Kerry just went missing. We lived vicariously on his letter writing. There was no texting or internet in those days. For 16 months we heard nothing, until we read in a newspaper about his capture and death.''

Even facing death as the Khmer Rouge tried to torture a painful false confession of CIA involvement out of his innocent brother, Kerry Hamill still managed to weave some ''coded'' Kiwi humour into his written confession.

New Zealand's Meremere Power Station and Colonel Sanders both got a mention and other names that only his family could recognise.

''My brother responded with incredible dignity and humour.''

Hamill went on in 1997, with Stubbs, to obliterate the field in the 4500km marathon Trans-Atlantic race from the Canary Islands to Barbados.

''I finally grieved properly for my brother out there on the ocean,'' he said.

The pain is still raw so many years on: ''What did they have to do to my brother to get that confession? My parents suffered greatly. They went through so much.''

The award-winning documentary film, Brother Number One, is a heart-rending account of Hamill's search for justice and forgiveness for the murder of his brother.

These days Hamill devotes much of his time to mentoring other young Kiwis with big dreams, but his love for rowing with never wane.

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- The Mirror

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