British housewife may face death penalty for smuggling cocaine


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The Independent Online

A British housewife was facing possible execution yesterday after being arrested on suspicion of smuggling £1.6m worth of cocaine into Bali.

Lindsay Sandiford, 55, fought to hide her face as she was paraded in front of the press, flanked by Indonesian police officers, with almost 4.8kg of drugs they said were found sewn into the lining of her suitcase.

Another British woman and two British men as well as an Indian man – said to be the intended recipients – were also put on public display.

Indonesia has extremely strict drug laws, and Ms Sandiford could face the death penalty if convicted. Initial reports said that she had told police that she had only agreed to carry the drugs after her children were threatened.

Ms Sandiford, who has two children and is believed to be 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, a customs official, Made Wijaya, told the press conference in Kuta. "After weighing, the total cocaine is 4.791kg," he said, estimating the street value at 23.9 billion Indonesian rupiah (£1.6m). "This is a big international network. The charge against them would carry the death penalty."

Two days after her arrest, Ms Sandiford agreed to be used in a sting operation carried out by Indonesian authorities. When a British woman, identified only as RLD, contacted her two days later a meeting was arranged.

The head of Bali's drugs squad said that the woman and two British men, identified by the initials BP and JAP, were subsequently arrested on suspicion of being senior figures in a major drug-smuggling syndicate controlled from abroad.

Another 68g of cocaine, 280g of powdered ecstasy and a small amount of hashish were also seized following the arrest of the other gang members at separate locations in Bali.

Neighbours who used to live near Ms Sandiford in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, said she and her then teenage boys were awful neighbours with many "strange" visitors turning up at all hours.