Sunday 22 April 2018

Grandmother on death row in Indonesia loses hope after execution of Bali Nine pair

Lindsay Sandiford
Lindsay Sandiford

Lizzie Dearden

A grandmother on death row in Indonesia has paid tribute to two Australians executed last night, saying that she has lost hope for herself after seeing the “good men” die.

Lindsay Sandiford, 58, had become friends with Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, who were shot by a firing squad for drugs offences dating back a decade.

They were among eight people who died, including four Nigerians and men from Brazil and Indonesia, despite international outrage and diplomatic interventions. A mother from the Philippines was granted a last-minute reprieve.

Ms Sandiford said she was “deeply saddened” to learn of their deaths in her cell at Kerobokan Prison in Bali, where the Australians were previously held.

"Many things have been said about whether Andrew and Myuran deserved to die for their crimes,” she added.

"I didn't know those men at the time they committed those crimes 10 years ago. What I can say is that the Andrew and Myuran I knew were men who did good and touched the lives of a great many people, including myself."

People hold candles to pray for death-row prisoners at Wijayapura port in Cilacap, Indonesia. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)
People hold candles to pray for death-row prisoners at Wijayapura port in Cilacap, Indonesia. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced that Australia will withdraw its ambassador from Jakarta in response to the still unconfirmed executions of two Australians, Myuran Sukumaran, 33, and Andrew Chan, 31. (Lukas Coch/AAP Image via AP)
Australian Andrew Chan
Australians Myuran Sukumaran (L) and Andrew Chan (R), the two ringleaders of the "Bali Nine" drug ring, being escorted out of a court after their verdict in Denpasar on Bali island. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
A police Barracuda vehicle arrives to transfer Bali Nine duo Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran to the execution island Nusukamban where they will await their fate. Photo: Agung Parameswara/Getty Images

Read more: Bali Nine: 'The whole place was very upset' - Irish priest describes death row inmates' final moments

Friends said the Australians had attempted to comfort the other condemned convicts during their last day, ordering in KFC on the night before the execution.

"The good thing is all prisoners were executed together while praying and singing. Before that they hugged each other, saying goodbye," Christina Widiantarti, a lawyer for Brazilian convict Rodrigo Gularte said after witnessing their deaths.

Ms Sandiford, from Cheltenham in Gloucestershire, said Chan was a "close friend and confidante" when they were in Kerobokan prison together.

"He counselled and helped me through exceptionally difficult times after I was sentenced to death in 2013," she added.

"Myu and Andrew used their time in Kerobokan to make life better for everyone around them. They introduced the concept of rehabilitation to a prison that never had it before."

The pair were convicted in 2006 as part of the “Bali Nine” drug smuggling gang who were arrested on the island for trying to smuggle 8kg of heroin to Australia.

During their decade in prison, they organised painting, cookery and computer classes, as well as helping the poorest inmates get food, clothing and essentials.

Read more: Bali Nine: Death row Briton 'deeply saddened' by executions

Sukumaran’s striking oil paintings became well-known, earning an exhibition in London to mark his 34th birthday earlier this year.

One of his last works was a bleeding heart, signed on the back by all eight people sentenced to death on the Nusakambangan “execution island”.

“The men shot dead today were reformed men - good men who transformed the lives of people around them,” Ms Sandiford said. “Their senseless, brutal deaths leave the world a poorer place.”

She was sentenced to death for drugs smuggling after being found with cocaine worth an estimated £1.6 million as she arrived in Bali on a flight from Bangkok, Thailand, in May 2012.

Ms Sandiford admitted the offences, but claimed she had been coerced by threats to her son's life, and has since appealed against her sentence without success.

Now she fears she will be in the next round of executions, expected to take place before the end of this year.

After the convicts killed last night were given notice of their executions on Saturday, she said she accepted her fate and “just wants to get it over with”.

“If they kill someone as good as Andrew, what hope is there for me?” Ms Sandiford reportedly told a friend.

“I just want to get it over with. I feel like just giving up.”

More than 100 people remain on death row in Indonesia, around a third of them foreigners, mostly for drug crimes.

Additional reporting by agencies

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