Won’t wear blindfold when Indonesia shoots her
Will sing “Magic Moments” by Perry Como
Lindsay Sandiford, 58, is the lone drug offender still awaiting execution in the Kerobokan Jail in Bali, Indonesia.
The British grandmother from North Yorkshire was convicted of carrying 10.6 pounds of cocaine in the hidden compartment of a suitcase in 2012. The head of the conspiracy was given a six-year sentence. But Indonesia focuses executions on drug couriers, rather than kingpins. The prosecutor recommended Lindsay receive a 15-year sentence and wept when the court rejected the recommendation and ordered her firing squad execution.
The United Kingdom, unlike other governments, does not finance appeals for citizens facing execution in foreign countries. That leaves Lindsay unable to appeal her legally questionable and morally unjust death sentence.
The Daily Mail in London published Lindsay’s thoughtful first-person account of her plight on May 2. Here’s what she had to say:
My execution is imminent and I know I might die at any time now. I could be taken tomorrow from my cell in Bali to Nusa Kambangan – the place they call Execution Island – and given 72 hours’ notice before I am put in front of a firing squad.
I am now the only prisoner left on death row in Kerobokan and the Indonesian government says it wants to execute everyone given the death penalty for drug crimes before the end of 2015 – and that there will be no clemency.
The day of my death came closer on Wednesday with the execution in Nusa Kambangan of eight prisoners, including my dear friend Andrew Chan. Andrew had helped me through some dark times in Kerobokan after I was first given the death penalty.
The Indonesian Attorney General’s office said last week there will be no warning before the next round of executions and the timing will be kept secret.
That means I will be taken straight from my cell to Execution Island and then given three days’ notice of execution. The list for the next round of executions is already being drawn up.
Goodbye letters to family
That is why, this weekend, I have started to write goodbye letters to members of my family.
I am out of time to apply for clemency and I have no funds to appeal against my death sentence, so the authorities can simply assume I accept my sentence.
It is terrifying. They have already executed 14 people this year and they are not going to stop until all of us are dead. The situation is so volatile. That’s why I have to make my preparations now.
The night of executions
The night they shot Andrew last week was heartbreaking. It was very quiet in the prison because everyone knew what was going to happen. I sat in the kitchen area of my cell with the door shut.
Messages were passed to the prison through the night. I didn’t sleep a wink.
I kept wishing there could be some sort of reprieve, but I didn’t believe there would be. Everyone kept trying to tell me, ‘There’s still hope’, but I knew in my heart there wasn’t.
As they were marched to a jungle clearing with the firing squad, the eight of them sang Amazing Grace and then they sang 10,000 Reasons – Andrew’s favourite song – before they were shot. He taught them all to sing it, bless him.
What I will do
The executions have forced me to think about how I am going to handle the situation when my own time comes.
I won’t wear a blindfold. It’s not because I’m brave but because I don’t want to hide – I want them to look at me when they shoot me.
That was one of the songs he sang and it reminds me of those long-ago days.
One thing I’m sure about is I don’t want the macabre circus that went on last week in Nusa Kambangan. The prisoners’ families were publicly humiliated while they waited for the executions to take place. The pictures of them crying in anguish are absolutely horrendous.
What I won’t do
I would dearly love to see my family, of course, but I wouldn’t subject them to that. I don’t want any of my family to be there and I don’t want a spiritual adviser because I haven’t turned to God.
I’m not a religious person. I try to do the right thing by everybody, and I try to keep on an even keel and be kind. My biggest sadness is that I may never meet my granddaughter. She’s two years and five months old and she was born after my arrest.
I long to see her and to hold her, but at the same time I feel it would be better if she doesn’t know me.
If I did see my granddaughter, it would be for my benefit and not hers. For her, it would be better if she doesn’t know me and doesn’t see me. She’s the most important thing in my life even though I’ve never met her. If anything was possible, I would just like to be a fly on the wall where she is so I could see her and be in the same space as her.
When she grows up, I want her to know I wasn’t a bad person. I was coerced into committing this terrible crime and I did it because I thought it was the only way to protect my youngest son, her uncle.
How did I get here?
I still find it hard to believe how my life has been turned upside down in the last few years and how I ended up here alone in a prison on the other side of the world, waiting to be told when I will die.
I used to have a family and a good job with a very good salary. For the best part of 30 years I was a legal cost draftsman. I conducted detailed assessment hearings in courts and I have appeared in the House of Lords before the Clerk of the Parliaments.
In the late 1990s I had a good job and owned a flat in Pimlico overlooking the Thames and Battersea Power Station. I lived there with my school teacher husband and our two sons.
We were together for 15 years, but we grew apart and divorced in 1997. He is a good man and we’re still friends. After my divorce I moved to Cheltenham with my boys. I worked in Bristol and drove 130 miles to go to work and back every day.
I always worked and I always paid my taxes. When my eldest boy was born I had just two weeks off work. When my second son was born on the Sunday of a Bank Holiday weekend, I went back to work on the Wednesday, because we needed the money.
A holiday to India
After my sons left school, I went on holiday to India. It was a place I always wanted to visit and I completely fell in love with it and decided I wanted to stay. My youngest son came out with me and lived there with me for two years until he was 18.
I stayed on in Jaipur. I was always keen on knitting and while I was there I made shawls and jewellery and sold them back in England and through a friend who had shops in Jaipur. I used to travel back to England to see my sons.
Protecting a son in trouble
My younger son was vulnerable and when he moved to Brighton he was targeted by Julian Ponder and some very bad people. [Ponder was jailed for six years in Bali for possession of drugs.] On one of my trips back to see my son and help him out, I was told he would be killed if I didn’t do a job for them.
I knew enough about the law to know that if I went to the police it would only make things worse. So after a lot of soul-searching I decided to do what they told me to do.
I realise it was stupid. I just didn’t see any alternatives at the time.
I was living overseas, I had no one to turn to and I thought if I just did what they asked, my son would be safe and everything would be all right. I followed their instructions and collected a bag to take from Bangkok to Bali.
I never looked to see what was in it – but I had a good idea.
Her arrest in Bali
When I got to Bali, I collected the bag from the carousel and I was a few feet from the arrivals hall when I had put the bag through an X-ray machine. My heart was thumping madly in my chest.
The customs officer came over to me as the bag came out of the machine and asked if I had the key to my bag. I said ‘Yes’ and he went through my bag and he went straight to the false bottom and found the drugs. He knew exactly where to look.
What happened next is something that haunts me. At night, I wake up every 90 minutes because I have the most horrendous nightmares. In those nightmares, I’m back in the room at the customs office when I was interrogated for two nights.
They wouldn’t let me sleep, they were banging on the windows and door and screaming, ‘No reclining, no reclining.’
Then two men came in who I had never seen before and told me that I would get the death penalty for what I’d done. One of them pulled out a black gun and held it against my head. I said, ‘Pull the trigger’ and he kicked his chair across the room.
It was a white tiled floor and it was a metal fold-up chair. He kicked it across the room and it cracked against the wall. I can hear the sound right now. I thought he’d shot me. I will never forget that man’s face and he’s always in my nightmares.
After two nights of interrogation, I agreed to help the police arrest Julian and the other members of the syndicate who were waiting for the drugs to be delivered. They told me my son would be safe and that I would be given a more lenient sentence for co-operating.
I think I knew all along I was going to get the death penalty.
A kind prosecutor
There was a ray of hope for me when the prosecutor asked for a 15-year jail term, and when I got the death sentence I did wonder for a moment: ‘How the hell did that happen?’
Then the prosecutor, who had done his best to get me a prison sentence, wrapped me inside his robe and was trying to protect me. He was crying in my ear and saying, ‘I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.’
I had taken on a powerful drugs syndicate and I was being made to pay for it.
When I first came to Kerobokan, I was absolutely terrified. I’d already had months in police custody where I’d been told the most terrible things by Julian and the other syndicate members after the sting operation. They told me my kids were dead and that I’d be next.
I didn’t speak to anyone in Kerobokan for six months. It was Andrew Chan who helped me through some really difficult times. We became firm friends.
My only chance of avoiding execution now is to file for what is known as a ‘pk’ hearing, which is effectively a full retrial.
I haven’t been able to do this so far because it’s an expensive process and I don’t have the funds, and the British Government will not help me.
The Supreme Court in London recommended the Government treat me as a special case and consider funding my appeal. The five judges said substantial mitigating factors had been overlooked in my case and that there was a disparity of sentencing between me and the other syndicate members. But Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond refused.
A few weeks ago, my sister and supporters launched an appeal through a Facebook page and website in my name to raise money to lodge papers for the ‘pk’ hearing.
They are in a race against time to do that before I am executed. I am very touched and grateful for the support, but at the same time I find it humiliating to have to ask for help.
The Australian government funded Andrew’s legal case. A lot of countries you wouldn’t expect fund these cases for their nationals overseas. Mexico does. The Philippines does. Even Indonesia does.
I feel I’ve been made a beggar by my own Government and, by making the appeal, I’m putting myself in a high-profile position which makes my situation all the more tenuous and makes them all the more likely to want me out of the way quickly.
I could accept my fate if it was just and fair. I have been denied any proper legal representation so far and I just want the chance to put my case before a court and let them decide if it is fair I am shot.
I realise I have committed a heinous crime but I want to know why I have been singled out to be executed when people higher up the syndicate got off lightly. All I want is justice, and if the court decides I am such a bad person that I deserve to be shot, then I will accept that.
Forgives drug kingpin
I don’t harbour any bad feeling towards Julian and the other syndicate members. I’ve got too many other things to worry about and I’ll leave that to their own karma.
Meanwhile, I have to accept the possibility I could be included in the next batch of drug executions.
Bali is a Hindu island and officials won’t allow executions here so I will have to be moved to Nusa Kambangan to be killed.
When they came for Andrew, they came in a fleet of armoured vehicles at 4.20 in the morning. They might put on a similar show for me but surely it would look ridiculous to do that to an old lady.
In a way it will be a relief to have it over with. It’s hard to live with the stress and the uncertainty of knowing you are about to be executed. But for the sake of my granddaughter – and how she will remember me – I have to keep asking for justice.