Tuesday 12 December 2017

Grandmother faces execution in Bali after being 'coerced' into drug mule role

Terri Judd

A British grandmother facing execution in Bali if convicted of drug smuggling was coerced into acting as a courier, an expert will tell the court next week.

Lindsay Sandiford, 56, was arrested in May when customs officials found £1.6m (€2m) worth of cocaine sown into the lining of her suitcase as she arrived in Indonesia and is currently on trial for selling or facilitating the sale of illegal narcotics.

Dr Jennifer Fleetwood, who is a specialist on women’s involvement in the international drug trade, will submit a report to the District court in Denpasar next week, explaining that in her professional opinion, “Lindsay Sandiford was subjected to coercion by one or more parties over a period of time.”

“Lindsay Sandiford’s clean criminal record confirms that she has never been involved in any other form of crime,” adds the expert from the University of Kent, who the defence hope will be able to give further evidence via video-link or in person.

Mrs Sandiford has insisted that the prosecution case against her is “full of inaccuracies”. Her supporters say that she suffered months of threats and finally agreed to travel to Thailand where, convinced her son would be in danger from criminal gangs if she refused, she agreed to carry a suitcase to Indonesia. She was too scared to tell anyone, including her partner, until she was arrested on her arrival in Bali and found to have almost 4.8kg of drugs in her suitcase.

In her report, Dr Fleetwood concludes that Ms Sandiford’s vulnerability will have made her an ideal target for drugs traffickers, noting that: “There is…evidence to suggest that a trafficker would seek someone who was vulnerable. Having reviewed extracts from Lindsay’s medical records I know that Lindsay has a history of mental health issues…This may have unfortunately made her an attractive target for threats, manipulation and coercion.”

The mother-of-two, from Redcar, Teesside, was stopped as she arrived at Bali's Ngurah Rai International Airport on a Thai Airways flight from Bangkok on 19 May. The trial, expected to last several more weeks, recently heard from customs officer Christian Septu, who described how the British woman appeared shocked when he produced the contents of the package.

Harriet McCulloch, investigator for the legal action charity Reprieve, said: “Lindsay has always maintained that she only agreed to carry the package to Bali after receiving threats against the lives of her family.

“Since then she has cooperated fully with the Indonesian authorities but remains in Kerobokan prison where she continues to fear for the well-being of her family, who she was so desperately trying to protect. This report demonstrates that Lindsay was exploited by drug barons, who preyed on her vulnerability and her fear for the safety of her children.”

Indonesia has extremely strict drug laws, and Mrs Sandiford could face the death penalty if convicted. She is one four Britons facing drug charges in the Indonesian province. Paul Beales and Julian Ponder face the same charge while Rachel Dougall is accused of possession and failure to report a crime.

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