Monday 28 May 2012

A British housewife arrested alongside a husband and wife as part of a major drugs bust in Indonesia said she made the trip because her children in the UK were being threatened.

Lindsay June Sandiford, 55, was stopped with the 4.7kg haul in a suitcase as she arrived on a flight from Bangkok in Thailand on 19 May. If convicted she could face the death penalty by firing squad.

She covered her face during a press conference in the holiday town of Kuta as she was pictured sitting at a table surrounded by packages wrapped in brown tape as a customs official cut them open with a knife.

Sandiford, from Redcar, was wearing an orange prison T-shirt, and was flanked by armed officers wearing black masks.

Police spokesman Mulyadi, who only goes by one name said: "For over a week, we conducted a controlled drug delivery through the suspect, Sandiford, to uncover a drug ring.

"Four Britons, including Sandiford, and one Indian citizen were arrested," he said.

The other suspects were not named.

The police monitored Sandiford for over a week as she stayed in a hotel in Ahmed, on the eastern part of the holiday island, on the orders of another British woman who was also later arrested, he said.

She was arrested along with four other suspects after a sting operation.

After taking her in for questioning, they said they found cocaine in the lining of her bag.

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

Two of the suspects, who police identified as JAP and RLD, are husband and wife and own a villa in Bali.

Police said their role in the trade was to pick up drugs delivered by Sandiford.

After arresting JAP, who had picked up the cocaine from Sandiford, JAP directed the police to his villa in Tabanan, where police discovered 48.94 grams of cocaine hidden in a black bag and arrested his wife, RLD.

Given information extracted from these two suspects police were able to capture the other two suspects the next day, reported on Monday.

They arrested NA, the Indian national, in a villa in Badung where they found 78 plastic bags filled with ecstasy. They also arrested PB in a villa in Kuta with 3.36 grams of hashish.

Police have said that they will continue to use Sandiford to lure out other members of the alleged Bali drug syndicate.

Made Wijaya, head of the Customs office in Bali, said officials saw drugs in Ms Sandiford’s suitcase when her luggage went through an X-ray machine as part of a routine check.

He said: "After weighing, the total cocaine is 4.791kg. This is a big international network. The charge against them would carry the death penalty."

Three Britons and an Indian national were believed to be the intended recipients. They are being questioned.

Police are expected to reveal further details later today.

Indonesian authorities said she told them she was a housewife. She was arrested at Bali's Ngurah Rai International Airport on May 19.

The Daily Mail reported that Sandiford's neighbours at her previous residence in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire today described her as a "neighbour from hell."

Residents near her old address, a £275,000 detached home, said she appeared to be a respectable middle class mother, but was really a nuisance neighbour.

A 63-year-old man who lived next door said she was evicted around five years ago for allegedly failing to pay rent.

He said: 'She gives off the impression that she's a well-to-do middle-aged woman, but she's not at all. She was a real neighbour from hell.'

He added: 'It doesn't surprise me at all that she's been arrested for drugs. I don't know what was going on really - and I suspect neither does she.

Indonesia has some of the toughest anti-drugs laws in the world.

The death penalty has been used in the past for drug traffickers, but in recent years it has been applied infrequently.

More than 140 people are on death row in the country, a third of them foreigners.

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