Jane Holroyd June 11, 2012
'I was tied to a chair' ... Lindsay Sandiford says she was asked to check out flights to Australia. Photo: AFP
A British woman facing the possibility of death by firing squad in Bali for importing cocaine claims she had no idea what was in her suitcase and says Indonesian police tied her to a chair for two days and pointed a gun at her head.
Lindsay Sandiford, 55, was arrested in Bali last month along with three other Britons when customs officials alleged they found 4.7kg of cocaine hidden behind a panel in her suitcase. The drugs had a value of $AUD2.5 million.
In an interview with Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper, Ms Sandiford said she agreed to travel from Bangkok to Bali with unknown goods in her suitcase because she believed it would help her 21-year-old son Elliot, who she claims had been threatened by drug dealers in England.
The mother-of-two who has lived in the Himalayan region of India with her second husband for the past five years says became aware of her younger son’s predicament on a trip back to England in March. She told the newspaper she travelled back to England to help Elliot move flats and to greet her older son Louis as he finished a stint in prison for robbery.
Ms Sandiford said a drugs gang believed Elliot was a police informer.
‘‘I got a call from someone — I don’t know who — telling me my boy was a snitch and they would kill him if I didn’t put things right.’’
‘‘Elliot told me he was on the run because he had had death threats. He said, ‘Mum you’ve got to help me’.’’
Ms Sandiford claimed she was contacted by phone by a male acquaintance she knew 20 years ago who told her to meet him in a McDonald’s restaurant. She said the man told her she should start checking out flights to Australia. Ms Sandiford returned to India and was then contacted by the man in April who told her to travel to Bangkok and book into a hotel for seven days.
Ms Sandiford claimed she was met in Bangkok by the man’s girlfriend and the pair spent time shopping together before a man called ‘‘Chubby’’ turned up at Ms Sandiford’s hotel room and put something in her suitcase and told her to fly to Bali.
‘‘I knew what they were asking me to do was something dodgy,’’ she said. ‘‘They weren’t asking me to bring in tulips or balls of cheese but I didn’t know if it was money, gold, jewellery, guns, marijuana or heroin. I had no idea.’’
Ms Sandiford claims she did not know the man had hidden cocaine in her luggage until her arrest after touching down in Bali.
She said that after her arrest she was interrogated by Indonesian police who forced her to participate in a sting operation to capture other drug smugglers. Ms Sandiford said police tied her to a chair for two days, pointed a pistol at her head and forced her to stay awake by screaming every time she started to fall asleep.
She says she began to name people after the ordeal and agreed to help police trap those she implicated. Ms Sandiford said she was taken by police to the arranged pick-up point where she handed over a fake parcel of drugs to a man in a car.
‘‘Police promised me they would intercept me before I got in the car,’’ she said in a tearful interview. ‘‘I thought if something goes wrong they will kill me or police will get out their guns and shoot us.’’ Police stopped the car further up the road and arrested the man.
Ms Sandiford, who claims she lives in a mud brick home in India and makes a living selling jewellery and cashmere, said she now feared for her son’s life and her own. She said she could not afford to pay her legal bills, which her defence lawyer told her would cost about £32,000.
‘‘I could get the death penalty... I am so frightened. I could die here.’’