The 'suburban smuggler' facing death penalty in Indonesia

Cheltenham housewife arrested in Bali with nearly 5kg of cocaine in her suitcase

A British housewife was facing possible execution yesterday after being arrested on suspicion of smuggling £1.6 million 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 men as well as an Indian man – said to be the intended recipients – were also put on public display, wearing orange prison uniforms and balaclavas.

Yesterday residents of the street in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, where Mrs Sandiford used to live with her two sons described them as a "neighbours from hell," though a former friend insisted she was a "lovely, bubbly" woman.

Indonesia has extremely strict drug laws, and Mrs 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.

The mother-of-two, 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, 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).

He continued: "This is a big international network. The charge against them would carry the death penalty."

Two days after her arrest, Mrs 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, officials said.

Yesterday, neighbours of Mrs Sandiford in Cheltenham said many "strange" visitors would turn up at the house at all hours of the day and night.

One man who lives nearby, Colin Richardson, said: "I was glad to see the back of her. She was totally the wrong sort of person in this sort of neighbourhood."

Another neighbour, who did not want to be named, said: "When the house was repossessed they had to completely redo it.

"She gave the impression of being quite well off and everything, but she was just putting on a facade."

Reports in the local newspaper, the Gloucestershire Echo, revealed that she had clashed with the local education authority over schooling for her son Eliot – who she said had behavioural problems – when he was a teenager.

Neighbours said that in addition to Eliot, who is now believed to be 22, Mrs Sandiford had another son Lewis who was two years older.

But Maria Swift, 47, who worked part time for Mrs Sandiford, painted a different image, insisting: "She was friendly, bubbly, she was helpful, she helped me. I did a bit of cleaning for her, it was just to help her out in general. Her boys were a bit messy – which boys can be."

At the time she knew Mrs Sandiford, she had been working for a firm of solicitors doing administrative work, Ms Swift added. "I'm just gobsmacked because I didn't see that side of her and it's hard to believe that she could work for a legal firm and go from one extreme to another."

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are aware of the arrest in Bali, and we stand ready to provide consular assistance."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before