Caribbean nightmare is over for woman jailed in drugs case

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The Independent Online

A British woman who has spent four months in a prison cell in the West Indies was due to be freed today after drug-smuggling charges against her were dropped.

A British woman who has spent four months in a prison cell in the West Indies was due to be freed today after drug-smuggling charges against her were dropped.

Marianne Telfer, 28, a care worker from Colchester, Essex, was arrested in the Dominican Republic in February after her boyfriend, Richard Slack, collapsed in their hotel room and died. Mr Flack, aged 34, a landscape gardener, had swallowed several bags of cocaine.

Ms Telfer, who repeatedly protested her innocence, was initially charged with homicide, before facing the sole charge of drug-smuggling. After a campaign led by her parents, Roger and Sheila, a court cleared her of wrongdoing this week.

"I am thrilled to bits," said her mother, Mrs Telfer, 57, a former psychologist who has been in the Dominican Republic since the arrest. "The lawyer was wonderful. He did a wonderful job."

Sarah de Mas, deputy director of Fair Trials Abroad, a campaign group which supported her case, added: "We're delighted with the result because there was no evidence of any kind - physical, eye-witnesses or DNA - to suggest any link between Marianne and the drugs.

"Marianne is absolutely overjoyed but you can imagine the build-up of tension she has experienced over the past few months."

For Ms Telfer, the dream two-week holiday in the Caribbean with her boyfriend turned to a nightmare only hours before they were due to return to the UK. When she returned from a shopping trip to find him collapsed on the hotel floor she called an ambulance, but he failed to regain consciousness.

Ms Telfer had been in a relationship with Mr Flack for nearly a year and had discovered that he had been a former heroin addict several months after they started dating.

However, she has consistently protested her innocence and said she was unaware that he was involved in planning to smuggle drugs to the UK.

A campaign involving Bob Russell, the Liberal Democrat MP for Colchester, as well as Fair Trials Abroad, was launched by her family.

Mr Telfer said: "Mr Flack was ingesting cocaine to smuggle it back into the UK. Clearly a number of the bags which he had ingested split and he died a particularly agonising death. Marianne came back into the room and found him. She did all she could to help him but to no avail.

"Not only had she to cope with her partner dying in these terrible circumstances, but also with being arrested and charged over something she insists she knows nothing about."

Late on Wednesday afternoona panel of five judges in the Dominican Republic concluded that there was no legal basis on which she could be charged and held in prison awaiting trial.

"We are thrilled but it has come four months too late," said the spokeswoman for Fair Trials Abroad. "She should never have been charged and held all this time. As soon as a court looked at the allegations against her they could only conclude that there was no evidence on which to hold her."

The predicament was partially attributed by Ms Telfer's sister Catherine to her particularly trusting nature. "Marianne always sees the best in people," she said. "She is very trusting, sometimes too trusting. She is always prepared to give people a second chance.

"She knew about her boyfriend's drugs past but genuinely believed he had rejected that side of his life. I think it will be sometime before Marianne recovers from what happened."

Yesterday the family were preparing for her return to the UK, which is expected to take place over the weekend.

"We are just absolutely thrilled, the champagne is flowing," said Ms Telfer's brother Richard, from the family home in Colchester. "We never for a moment doubted her innocence but the legal system out there just seemed to take for ever."