A British grandmother sentenced to death for smuggling drugs into Bali has abandoned her legal battle to escape execution and says she is now reconciled with the prospect of facing the firing squad.
In an astonishingly frank interview on Death Row, 62-year-old Lindsay Sandiford – whose two young granddaughters have flown from the UK to visit her in prison – said had decided to give up her attempts to lodge a potentially life-saving final appeal.
Drug mule Sandiford who was caught flying into Bali from Bangkok with 10.16 lb of cocaine in 2012 has now spent six years on Death Row while three Britons believed to be higher up the smuggling syndicate received sentences of one to six years and have all left prison.
But speaking in Bali’s grim Kerobokan prison known ironically as Hotel K, Sandiford – who spends her days knitting clothes and toys for her grandchildren, charities, and church groups – insisted to Mail Online: ‘In spite of everything, I feel blessed.
‘I have been blessed to live long enough to see my two sons grow up into fine young men and blessed to have been able to meet my two grandchildren. A lot of people don’t get that in their lifetime.’
Brit grandmother Lindsay Sandiford (pictured), sentenced to death for smuggling drugs into Bali has abandoned her legal battle to escape execution and says she is now reconciled with the prospect of facing the firing squad
Sandiford, 62, from Yorkshire, a grandmother-of-two young girls, has been held on Death Row for six years at Bali’s grim Kerobokan prison known ironically as Hotel K (pictured)
Inside Kerobokan prison (pictured) in Bali, Sandiford spends her days knitting cuddly toys for church groups and charities. She says she gets on with the guards and stays out of trouble
Asked whether she feared execution by firing squad, she insisted: ‘It won’t be a hard thing for me to face anymore. It’s not particularly a death I would choose but them again I wouldn’t choose dying in agony from cancer either.
‘I do feel I can cope with it. But when it happens I don’t want my family to come. I don’t want any fuss at all. The one thing certain about life is no one gets out alive.’
Sandiford, from Yorkshire, who has no previous convictions, was sentenced to death in 2013 after claiming in court she was forced by a UK-based drugs syndicate to smuggle cocaine from Thailand to Bali by threats to the life of one of her two sons in Britain.
Sandiford was caught flying into Bali from Bangkok with 10.16lb of cocaine in 2012
She received a death sentence despite co-operating with police in a sting to arrest people higher up in the syndicate, sparking an outcry from human rights lawyers and former UK Director of Public Prosecutions Ken Macdonald who said she had been treated with ‘quite extraordinary severity’.
The British government has repeatedly refused to fund Sandiford’s appeal, despite a ruling from Supreme Court judges in London who said ‘substantial mitigating factors’ had been overlooked in her original trial.
The syndicate’s alleged ringleader Julian Ponder, 50, from Brighton, was freed from Kerobokan prison in late 2017 following rumours more than £1 million in bribes were paid to drop trafficking charges against Ponder, his former partner Rachel Dougall, and fellow Brit Paul Beales. Dougall served one year and Beales four years for involvement in the conspiracy.
Ponder, who served just six years after being convicted of a reduced charge of cocaine possession, now flits between luxury hotels in Malaysia and Thailand with a 23-year-old Indonesian bride called Nadya, a convicted fraudster he met while in Kerobokan.
He declined to comment when traced to a hotel in Kuala Lumpur by Mail Online but is said to have told friends he hopes Sandiford is spared execution, saying: ‘Lying awake every night for so many years thinking you could be taken away and executed at any time is already punishment enough.’
More than £40,000 raised by well-wishers for a final appeal against Sandiford’s death penalty has been spent by a succession of Indonesian lawyers and legal assistants and she said she had decided not to engage another lawyer to fight her sentence.
Despite her desperate plight, Sandiford has had no contact or assistance from British consular officials after falling out with the previous Vice Consul Alys Harahap who, incredibly, was sacked for conducting an illicit romance with Ponder while he was in Kerobokan jail.
The grandmother is facing death by firing squad while three Britons believed to be higher up the smuggling syndicate received sentences of one to six years and have all left prison
Despite the prospect of being shot, Sandiford says she feels blessed to have lived long enough to have seen her sons grow into ‘fine young men’ and met her granddaughters (one pictured)
Now grey-haired and suffering arthritis, Sandiford spends her days knitting in the cramped five metres-by-five-metres cell at Kerobokan prison (pictured) she shares with four other women prisoners, most of them poorly-educated local women convicted of drug offences
Sandiford could face execution at any time after failing to lodge a final appeal but said: ‘I really cannot face asking anyone for help or having to deal with another lawyer. I just can’t face it. I’ve been burnt enough times.
‘I’ve had 10 different lawyers. If I actually turned my mind to the legal process I would get angry and bitter and it would be destructive.’
Sandiford said she did not want to the help of the Foreign Office after the crushing fiasco of Harahap’s seedy liaisons with Ponder. ‘If they started getting involved, they would probably end up getting me shot even sooner,’ she said.
Her last contact from British officials was a letter from the holiday island’s new British Vice Consul John Makin in October 2016 asking her to contact him if she wanted any assistance. Sandiford did not reply.
Now grey-haired and suffering arthritis, Sandiford spends days at a time knitting in the cramped five metres-by-five-metres cell prison she shares with four other women prisoners, most of them poorly-educated local women convicted of drug offences.
She has difficulty walking, hobbling into the stiflingly hot open air visiting area for our one-hour meeting, but was in remarkably good spirits, laughing as she joked about her life in the notorious prison and her fellow inmates.
She said she had come to terms with her death sentence after forging a close relationship by phone and by visits from her two sons’ daughters aged six and one – both of whom were born after Sandiford’s arrest.
‘If I was to die tomorrow, I would be happy I have had that relationship with them,’ she said. ‘It is the most important thing in my life.
‘Of course I think about being executed. Who wouldn’t? But what keeps me going is the fact I have seen my boys become men and become fathers and I have two beautiful granddaughters and I’ve had the chance to meet them both.
‘I have pictures of my granddaughters around my bed in my cell and I wake up and I see their faces and I smile. I am sad I can’t be a full-time grandmother but I have lived long enough to meet them and hold them and tell them that I love them.
Julian Ponder, 50, from Brighton (pictured) was the alleged ringleader of the drug smuggling syndicate that Sandiford was involved in but he was freed from Kerobokan prison in late 2017
Sandiford has had no contact from British consular officials after falling out with the previous Vice Consul Alys Harahap (pictured)who, incredibly, was sacked for conducting an illicit romance with Ponder while he was in Kerobokan jail
Ponder (pictured in jail) was freed from Kerobokan prison in Bali two years ago following rumours more than £1 million in bribes were paid to drop trafficking charges against him
Ponder (left), who served just six years after being convicted of a reduced charge of cocaine possession, now flits between luxury hotels in Malaysia and Thailand with a 23-year-old Indonesian bride called Nadya (right), a convicted fraudster he met while in Kerobokan
‘Even if I have a really bad day here, I turn around in bed and see my grandchildren. I wake up and I look at their faces and I’m not religious but I honestly feel blessed.
‘I regret that I haven’t been of more help to my boys, but I don’t think they would be at the point they are in their lives if I wasn’t in here. They wouldn’t have grown up as much if I was there as a safety net for them. They have had to grow up.
‘They’re both doing incredibly well and they both want to seize life rather than waste it. What’s happened to me has forced my boys to grow up and they’ve both turned into really good men.’
‘I have days when I feel miserable and I think I do have an underlying depression but I try not to let it take over my life or what time I have left or whether it ends with a bullet. It’s destructive to dwell on it which is why I’ve kept busy to stay positive.
‘We’re all in jail. It’s a planet and you can’t get off it. It’s a jail and it’s just that your corner of it is a bit more open than mine. You can either focus on the negative or the positive and wallowing in misery doesn’t get you anywhere except being more miserable.’
Sandiford will be transferred to Nusa Kambangan – known as Execution Island – and shot by firing squad at midnight with up to a dozen other condemned prisoners when and if her death penalty is carried out.
‘I won’t make it easy for them but I have the screaming ab dabs either,’ said Lindsay, who was close friends with Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran of the Bali Nine drug trafficking gang who were taken from Kerobokan and executed in 2015. ‘Dying doesn’t bother me. I never thought I’d last this long to be honest.
‘What I am uncomfortable about is the public humiliation. You’re dragged half way around the country and paraded in front of the press before being executed and that will be the worst thing for me.
‘My attitude is ‘If you want to shoot me, shoot me. Get on with it.’ I’ve done a terrible thing, I know, but the worst thing is the ritual public humiliation they seem to enjoy.
‘I’ve told my family I don’t want any of them to come when it happens. I don’t want to put them through what Andrew’s family went through and the families of the other prisoners who were shot.
‘I’ve said to my sons if you come I will refuse to see you so don’t bother coming. I’ve told them when I’m dead there will be no ceremonies, no nothing, If there’s any money left spend it all in one day and have a party and enjoy yourselves. I’ve told them ‘If there’s any weeping or ritual trees or flowers, I will come back and haunt you’.
‘They know it would be the last thing I wanted. They know that. I’m their mum and they love me and for me that’s enough. And they know I love them and hopefully that will be enough for them.’
In her seven years inside Kerobokan, Sandiford has taught dozens of fellow inmates to knit and raised thousands of pounds for charities and church groups by knitting children’s toys and clothes.
Asked how she felt towards Ponder, known as the King of Bali for his lavish lifestyle, Sandiford (pictured in jail) said: ‘He very seldom crosses my mind. ‘If I dwelt on it I could quite easily send myself insane with the unfairness of it all’
‘When you first come here nothing is right for you and you want to change things. I understood very quickly that if you complain about something here, you are the problem because this is their jail.
‘So I don’t complain about anything and they leave me alone. If I don’t complain and keep quiet they are fine with me. If I started making a fuss they could make my life a lot more miserable but I don’t particularly want them to.
‘My philosophy is they can’t make my life any worse so if I don’t want to do something I tell them I won’t do it and ask them ‘What are you going to do about it? Shoot me?’ And they just laugh and walk off.
‘The warders here are really, really good to me. They feel incredibly sorry for me. They know who I am. They know I don’t cause any problems. They know I don’t fight and I don’t gossip or get involved in arguments. They’ve really been incredibly kind to me.
Asked how she felt towards Ponder – known as the King of Bali for his lavish lifestyle and unexplained wealth during his eight years on the island – Sandiford said: ‘He very seldom crosses my mind.
‘If I dwelt on it I could quite easily send myself insane with the unfairness of it all. But it is what it is. You can bash your head against a wall but it isn’t going to change the situation I’m in.
‘Even to this day, I would never in a million years change places with Julian Ponder.’
Sandiford has been listed for execution on a number of occasions but Indonesia has not executed any foreign inmates since 2016. The timing of executions is heavily influenced by domestic politics and could resume following a presidential election in April.
Former DPP Lord Macdonald has led calls for Sandiford to be spared the firing squad, describing the arguments for overturning it as ‘compelling’.
‘It is very difficult to catch anyone other than mules because they are the ones who put themselves on the line,’ he argued.
Sandiford (pictured left with her eldest son and right in her younger days) will be transferred to Nusa Kambangan – known as Execution Island – and shot by firing squad at midnight with up to a dozen other condemned prisoners when and if her death penalty is carried out
‘Unless they co-operate, the chances of catching those higher up the chain tend to be slender. But who will co-operate in Indonesia in the future if the prospect is the death sentence?’
A British diplomatic source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told MailOnline Sandiford had refused consular support since 2014 and had not replied to Vice Consul John Makin’s letter but said: ‘We are ready to begin providing it again if she changes her mind.’
A spokesperson for the Foreign Office declined to say whether the British government had made any specific appeals to Indonesia on Sandiford’s behalf but said: ‘We have repeatedly made representations about the use of death penalty to the Indonesian Government at the highest levels.’