Until the fateful moment when customs officers at Bali airport ripped open Lindsay Sandiford’s suitcase, her greatest claim to fame was appearing in her local newspaper twice complaining about her son Eliot being mistreated.
Firstly she took on her local education authority because the troubled 14-year-old had been left without a school place, having been suspended 16 times, then three years later she complained a local games shop would not fix his Xbox.
Yet, if she is to be believed, it is because of a mother’s love – albeit for some unsavoury children – that she is now facing the firing squad for smuggling £1.6m of cocaine into Indonesia.
It was after returning to the UK from India – where she had moved five years earlier with her partner – that she discovered Eliot, by then aged 22, was being threatened by a drugs gang who suspected him of being a police informant. According to an interview last summer, it was out of fear for his life that she travelled to Bangkok and agreed to take part in a deal she suspected was “dodgy”, without knowing it involved drugs.
It was in the Thai capital that, she claims, she met Rachel Dougall and Paul Beales and a package was placed in a compartment of her suitcase. Mrs Sandiford then travelled to Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport, where she was stopped by customs officials and drugs were discovered in the suitcase.
Agreeing with the authorities to take part in a sting operation, she handed over a parcel to Ms Dougall’s partner Julian Ponder, 43. A verdict is due in his case tomorrow; he insists he thought he was picking up a birthday present for his daughter.
Ms Dougall and Mr Beales have been convicted after denying the accusations, but they received lighter sentences due to a lack of evidence linking them to the events. Mrs Sandiford insisted that she had only done it for her children. “I would never have become involved in something like this but the lives of my children were in danger and I felt I had to protect them,” she told Denpasar District Court.
In a statement to the court, her son said: “I love my mother very much... I know that she would do anything to protect me.” Mrs Sandiford has conceded her family do not have a good reputation near their former home in Cheltenham, however, admitting her sons “fought each other constantly” and the family were “neighbours from hell”. Indeed, one local resident said bluntly: “I was glad to see the back of her.”