Of Malaysian and New Zealand parentage, he was the only foreign national to be killed when Indonesian troops opened fire on a funeral procession at the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili. He attended the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, and worked as an interpreter for Australian aid agencies working in East Timor.
The Indonesian military commander in East Timor, Sintong Panjaitan, who was removed from the post, later went to study in the United States. In 1994, Bamadhaj's mother, Helen Todd, sued Panjaitan for punitive damages in a US court, but he dismissed the court's decision as 'a joke'  and returned to Indonesia.
A 1999 film, called Punitive Damage, tells the story of Todd's legal battle.