British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford weeps as she is sentenced to death by Indonesian court for drug trafficking

Lindsay Sandiford, 56, had expected jail term for cocaine offence

She pulled a floral sarong over her head to shield herself from the TV cameras, but Lindsay Sandiford’s sobs betrayed her shock and grief today as a Balinese court sentenced the Briton to death for trying to smuggle cocaine into the Indonesian resort island.

Sandiford, 56, had known her penalty would be harsh: Indonesia is notorious for its uncompromising treatment of drug offenders. But prosecutors had sought a 15-year jail term, so when the panel of judges announced she would face a firing squad, it must have come as a cruel bolt from the blue.

The former legal secretary from Redcar, Cleveland, was arrested at Bali’s Ngurah Rai airport last May after customs officers found 4.8kg of cocaine in the lining of her suitcase. She was put in an orange prison uniform and paraded in front of the media, along with the haul of Class A drugs.

Police had already dangled in front of her an offer of leniency, in exchange for her helping them to net other alleged members of her smuggling ring. She accepted the offer, reportedly after considering it over a bowl of nasi goreng (fried rice with chicken and soy sauce) in a hotel room in the capital, Denpasar.

A sting operation led to the arrest of three other Britons – Rachel Dougall, 39, her partner, Julian Ponder, 43, and Paul Beales, 39 – and an Indian, Nandagopal Akkinemi.

However, a lack of evidence linking them with Sandiford led to Beales receiving a four-year sentence last month for cannabis possession and Dougall being jailed for 12 months for failing to report a crime.

A verdict is expected in Mr Ponder’s trial tomorrow. He is charged with receiving the cocaine in Bali, which – despite publicity about the draconian penalties – has a thriving drugs scene, focused on bars and nightclubs frequented by foreigners.

Face drawn, hair tied back, the bespectacled Sandiford cut a pitiful figure in Denpasar District Court, where she was accompanied by a Balinese translator and her sister, Hillary Parson.

Earlier, she had told the court that she acted as a courier only because “the lives of my children were in danger”. In interviews, she said she was forced to carry the drugs into Bali from Bangkok by a UK-based drugs gang that had threatened to kill one of her sons. The court also heard that she had mental health problems.

Jennifer Fleetwood, a University of Kent expert on the role of women in the international drug trade, testified that her vulnerability “may have unfortunately made her an attractive target for threats, manipulation and coercion”.

Despite all that, and her previously clean record and co-operation with police, the judges declared there were “no mitigating circumstances”. She had tarnished Bali’s image as a tourism destination and obstructed the government’s fight against drugs, they added. The arcane workings of Indonesian justice are often baffling to outsiders.

Sandiford’s lawyers said they would almost certainly appeal, and they may be successful – death sentences are often commuted to long prison terms and Indonesia has not executed anyone since 2008. There are at least 40 foreigners on death row, most of them convicted of drug crimes, according to a report in March last year by Australia’s Lowy Institute for International Policy.

Sandiford’s sentence was condemned by Reprieve, a charity that campaigns for prisoners’ human rights, and Amnesty International, which described the use of the death penalty for a non-lethal crime as “cruel in the extreme”.

The Foreign Office said Sandiford would continue to receive consular assistance.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
A poster by Durham Constabulary
news
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine