|Born||11 October 1977|
|Criminal penalty||20 years imprisonment|
|Criminal status||Imprisoned (Indonesia)|
Renae Lawrence (born 11 October 1977), an Australian former hospitality worker and panel beater, was convicted in Indonesia for drug trafficking as a member of the Bali Nine. In 2005, on her third trip to Bali, Lawrence was arrested at Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar with 2.689 kg (5.93 lb) of heroin concealed on her body. After a criminal trial where she co-operated with investigators and informed on the ringleaders, on 13 February 2006 Lawrence was sentenced to life imprisonment, despite prosecutors' call for a 20-year penalty. Her appeal to the Indonesian Supreme Court to have the life sentence reduced was successful, and on 26 April 2006 a sentence of 20–years imprisonment was handed down.
Lawrence, from Newcastle in New South Wales, came from a broken home and for most of her teen and early adulthood years she lived with her same sex partner and mother of three children, who was ten years older than Lawrence. After the relationship with her partner ended, Lawrence moved back in with her mother and stepfather. Her father described Lawrence, who was aged 27–years at the time of her arrest, as:
- "She is not 27 at heart. She's probably 15. She's just really gullible, naive and bloody stupid. She's not a bad kid. She's just got in with the wrong mob..... It surprises me that she would get involved in this but she was pretty desperate. She was upset when the car blew up. She was crying on the phone to her aunty wanting money. She was doing it tough. I don't think she's ever had a lot of money."
Initially employed with a smash repair company, Lawrence later gained employment at Eurest, a catering company, where she met Martin Stephens, Matthew Norman, and her supervisor, Andrew Chan. All four would later be convicted of drug trafficking as fellow members of the Bali Nine.
In an earlier unrelated incident, Lawrence and Norman were arrested on 26 March 2005, travelling along the Pacific Highway in a stolen vehicle. It was reported that police were required to use road spikes to intercept the vehicle. Both were due to appear on 26 April 2005 in the Gosford Magistrates Court to face car theft and traffic related charges. However, due to their arrest in Indonesia nine days earlier, both Lawrence and Norman failed to appear.
Alleged trafficking conspiracy
Media reports claim that in early October 2004 Lawrence was invited to Chan's Enfield home to celebrate her 27th birthday. Here she was allegedly told by Chan that she was to travel with him to Bali, without being told the detail behind the mission. Lawrence claimed that Chan would cover all airflights and accommodation and that if she disobeyed him or disclosed the nature of their arrangement, he would "send (her) family to the farm". Lawrence claimed that Chan said there would be a reward, should she follow his instructions. It was also reported that she met Myuran Sukumaran around this time. On 16 October 2004, Lawrence flew to Bali on what Indonesian police claim was a false passport. It was alleged that Chan entered Bali on the same date. Lawrence claimed that she was in regular contact with Chan whilst she stayed in the Istana Rama Hotel in Kuta, and Chan in Kuta's sprawling Hard Rock complex. Media reports stated that Lawrence alleged that on 22 October 2004, Sukumaran strapped packages to the body of both Lawrence and Chan, and with Chan's girlfriend, Grace, boarded a commercial flight to Australia, successfully clearing security, customs and immigratino in both Indonesia and Australia. Lawrence claimed that she and Chan were met at the airport, the packages removed, all of them taken to another house, and then Lawrence went home. A few days later Lawrence claimed that Chan handed her an envelope with A$10,000 cash.
A similar trip was organised following Chan's orders, Lawrence claimed, where she departed Australia on 5 December 2004. Lawrence claimed that seven others were involved, including Chan, Matthew Norman, and Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen (going by the alias of David). Lawrence claim that she was again given cash to purchase airflights and accommodation for eight days, staying again at the Istana Rama in Kuta. However, the second delivery was aborted when heroin suppliers failed to deliver "due to a financial matter or someone knowing about the plan the shipment was cancelled".
According to Lawrence, again under Chan's instructions, Lawrence departed Australia on 6 April 2005. The day before, Lawrence, Stephens and Si Yi Chen met with Sukumaran where police allege drug smuggling tools such as sealable plastic bags, medical tape, elastic waist bands and skin tight bike shorts were stuffed into the bags of Lawrence and Stephens. Lawrence claims she was given cash; whilst Stephens claims that his life was threatened. Media reports claim that police records show that Lawrence was in daily contact with Chan, whilst in Bali, until 13 April, when Chan changed his mobile phone number. On the same day, he instructed Lawrence and other members of the Bali Nine to change hotels. The original planned departure date of 14 April from Bali was delayed as Chan suspected Australian and Indonesian police were aware of his plans.
Arrest in Indonesia
Lawrence was arrested by Indonesian police on 17 April 2005 at Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar, Bali. Heroin weighing 2.689 kg (5.93 lb) was discovered strapped to her legs and chest, concealed underneath her clothing. Scott Rush, Michael Czugaj and Stephens were arrested at the same time as Lawrence. On 20 April 2005, graphic footage of the arrests and subsequent police questioning of Lawrence and other members of the Bali Nine was aired on Australian television.
On the same day that Lawrence was arrested, Indonesian police also arrested Si Yi Chen, Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen, Myuran Sukumaran and Matthew Norman at the Melasti Hotel in Kuta. Alleged co-ringleader, Andrew Chan was also arrested the same day whilst seated on an Australian Airlines flight waiting to depart Denpasar for Sydney. At the time Chan was arrested, he was carrying three mobile phones and a boarding pass. No drugs were found in his possession. On her arrest, Lawrence accused Chan of threatening her life if she did not continue with the plan to import drugs. Lawrence also claimed, but later retracted her statement, that Chan had offered her A$15,000, if she followed his instructions. Lawrence also rejected police allegations that she travelled to Bali previously on a false passport.
At the time of the arrest, it was reported that Lawrence was recorded as saying:
- "By dobbing some other **** I'm not killing my family. And what's the point anyway, because if we dob them in, right, we dob them in, they kill our family and then we're dead anyway. So, you know, why... Don't tell them and they'll just kill us instead and leave our families alone."
Lawrence was reported to have attempted suicide twice since her imprisonment and also suffered a broken arm due to an incident involving self harm. These incidents occurred after learning that Chan was to be moved to the same prison.
Criticism of Australian Federal Police tipoff
|Wikinews has related news: Bali Nine refused access to federal police files|
Lee Rush, the father of Scott Rush, a fellow member of the Bali Nine, said that he contacted the Australian Federal Police (AFP) prior to the commission of the offence, fearing his son was travelling to Bali and would commit a drug-related crime. Rush senior claims then to have received assurances from the AFP that they would tell his son he was under surveillance to dissuade him from going through with the crime before the group's departure from Indonesia. Scott Rush's lawyers said he was never contacted. It was revealed that the AFP alerted Indonesian police that a crime was to be committed approximately two weeks before the arrests, and had commenced an investigation about ten weeks prior to the arrests. When the Bali Nine were arrested, the news of the tipoff became public and there was criticism of the role of the AFP in protecting the interests of Australian citizens. Commenting on the matter at the time, AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty was reported as saying:
- "One of the things we've got to remember is that we operate within our criminal-justice system here in Australia, and if we only co-operated with countries that had the same criminal-justice system, then our co-operation wouldn't extend very far beyond Australia. We have to work with the systems that operate in other countries, and to a large degree this has been successful, certainly in terms of heroin trafficking."
Lawrence's father, Bob Lawrence, said in October 2005 he wanted to meet Commissioner Keelty face to face:
- "As far as I'm concerned, and excuse the expression, he is an arsehole. These kids were forced into this … they should have been either arrested at the airport here or followed to get the big guys. I don't know how they can sleep at night … even if they (the Bali nine) were guilty of doing it willingly, it still doesn't deserve the death penalty."
Rush took action in the Federal Court of Australia against the AFP for breach of the bilateral treaty between Indonesia and Australia when information was handed by the AFP to the Indonesians. Rush's case claimed that such information should only be released by the Attorney-General. However, the Commonwealth Government maintained that the treaty only applies after a suspect is charged. The application was dismissed by the Federal Court in January 2006.
|Wikinews has related news: Bali nine lawyer challenges police on legality of drug case|
In December 2005, as the trials began, it was reported that tensions were building between the Bali Nine drug mules and Sukumaran and Chan. Several days later, lawyers acting for some members of the Bali Nine initially sought the support of the Director of Public Prosecutions to intervene and lay charges for conspiracy to import drugs, so that the nine could be extradited and charged under Australian law. However, the judges hearing the trial matters in Bali called for Australia not to intervene in Indonesia's right to impose capital punishment;. Lawyers acting for Stephens, one of the Bali Nine, claimed that the fairness of his trial was in jeopardy following comments made in the media by Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda that Australians should be prepared for members of the Bali Nine to receive a death sentence, if found guilty.
Czugaj and Rush, both since convicted members of the Bali Nine and school friends from Brisbane, testified that they had never met Lawrence or Stephens until they were all arrested together at Ngurah Rai Airport. Rush also testified against Lawrence at her trial; whilst Lawrence testified against both Rush and Chan. Meanwhile, in a counter-claim, Chan alleged that it was Lawrence who was the ringleader. Chan claimed that Lawrence had given him Rp1 million to take suitcases with heroin to the Melasti Hotel.
It was reported that the indictment claimed that Lawrence was a drug mule who was recruited in Sydney, was paid for her return flight and accommodation to Bali by members of the conspiracy and then had two kilograms of heroin strapped to her body by Chan, Sukumaran and another of the group. Central to Lawrence's defence was her fear of Chan and the alleged retributions Chan, her former manager at Eurest, was planning to take on her family if she and others did not follow Chan's orders. Lawrence admitted to her role in attempting to smuggle the drugs to Australia, saying before the Denpasar District Court on 8 January 2006:
- "I would like to say to you and your country that I am sincerely sorry for what I have done. I need you to understand why I did it and ask for the mercy of this court. I'm guilty of carrying this stuff to Australia, but I'm not guilty of owning, selling or anything else because Andrew Chan owns it, not me."
Sentencing and appeal
In spite of widespread media reports that Lawrence had been cooperative with police, the Indonesian judges found no evidence of Lawrence claims her life was threatened. Judge I Gusti Ngurah Astawa said during sentencing,
- "The council of judges found no proof of the use of force in this crime, therefore the defendant has to be sentenced as fairly as possible.
In what was considered a shock for Lawrence and her defence team, she was sentenced on 13 February 2006 to life imprisonment, together with Rush.
Commenting on the sentences at the time, Australian Federal Police Commissioner Keelty stated:
- "I stand by the police and what they've done … The Federal Court actually made a decision saying not only had they acted lawfully but they acted in accordance with government policy."
- "The police are there to protect us from the ravages of drugs and I just hope that every young Australian who might in their wildest imagination think that they can get away with this will take a lesson from this." and "I feel desperately sorry for the parents of these people. I do. All of us as parents will feel that way, but the warnings have been there for decades."
Lawrence appealed against the severity of the sentence to the Indonesian Supreme Court. On 26 April 2006 a sentence of 20–years imprisonment was handed down.
In June 2006 the New Idea magazine reported that Lawrence has a Balinese girlfriend with whom she shares her prison cell and that her former partner in Newcastle had warned her against getting involved with Chan. Both serving time for drug trafficking in Kerobokan Prison, Schapelle Corby and Lawrence have developed a close but at times fraught relationship. In an interview with Woman's Day magazine, Lawrence says she has been appointed to care for Corby, who has become increasingly mentally unstable and has watched Corby's condition deteriorate since the pair was jailed four years ago.
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