|Born||Reginald James Spiers
14 December 1941
|Criminal penalty||Death sentence prior to successful appeal|
|Conviction(s)||Possession of heroin and hashish (2 June 1987)|
Reginald James "Reg" Spiers (born 14 December 1941) is an Australian former athlete who competed in the javelin throw at the 1962 Commonwealth Games, before his later conviction on drug smuggling charges. He is best known for successfully posting himself in a box from England to Australia to avoid paying for a plane ticket.
Born in Adelaide, South Australia, Spiers, who grew to be over two metres tall and strongly built, took up javelin and became one of the leading javelin throwers in Australia while still a teenager, placing third in the 1960/61 Australian Track and Field Championships and second in 1961/62.
Spiers continued to compete but his performances during the 1963/64 Australian summer were not enough to gain admission to the 1964 Australian Olympic team so Spiers travelled to England in an attempt to qualify during the English summer. Unsuccessful and penniless by the end of the season, Spiers enlisted a fellow athlete to help him build a man-sized wooden box, in which he then air-freighted himself back to Australia. Referred to as having "heroic - albeit borderline delusional gumption" for his actions, Spiers eventually made it to Perth, although nearly dehydrating on the runway in Mumbai.
Spiers's 1964 journey as airfreight from London to Australia was highly publicised after the British javelin thrower who'd built Spiers's box, John McSorley, became concerned about his friend's welfare and contacted sports correspondent James Coote from The Telegraph newspaper in London. Following his six-year disappearance after skipping bail from Adelaide with his girlfriend in 1981, Spiers declined a television interview with Channel 9 in 1988. Scant details had survived about Spiers's sixty-three-hour stowaway flight, and little was known about his time on the run, until he endorsed a book by McSorley's wife and son.
After a brief retirement, Spiers returned to competitive athletics in the 1966/67 season, winning the national javelin championship with a throw of 73.77 metres. The next season, Spiers recorded his best ever throw of 74.45 metres but only finished third nationally. Spiers continued to compete until 1980/81, again winning the national javelin throw in 1976/77 with a throw of 73.68 metres.
Following his retirement from athletics, Spiers became involved in drug smuggling and was arrested by the Australian Federal Police and charged in the Adelaide Courts for conspiracy to import A$1.2 million of cocaine and cannabis resin into Australia in 1980. Spiers pleaded guilty and was sentenced to ten years, but disappeared from Adelaide in October 1981.
After escaping from India, Spiers was next arrested at Bandaranaike International Airport in Sri Lanka on 1 December 1984 while travelling on a French passport under the name Patrick Claude Albert Ledoux. Sri Lankan Customs officials found 41 packets of drugs, including 1 kg (2.2 lb) of heroin, hidden in a cassette recorder in Spiers's possession. On 2 June 1987, Spiers was found guilty of four counts of possessing heroin and one count of possessing hashish and sentenced to death. A successful appeal earned Spiers a reprieve, but he was forced to serve a five-year prison term in Adelaide.
In 2011, Spiers's daughter Jane was convicted on counts of manufacturing a controlled drug, and one count of doing so for sale. Jane Spiers was jailed for six years, with a three-year non-parole period.
In 2014, a book was released Out Of The Box: The Highs and Lows of a Champion Smuggler, published by Roaring Forties Press in the US. The book was endorsed by Spiers and covers details of his journey from England to Australia as airfreight, as well as his years on the run as a fugitive that led to death row.
- Caffrey, Jason (6 March 2015). "The man who posted himself to Australia". BBC News. Retrieved 6 March 2015.
- Rettie, J. "Australian's French connection", The Age, p. 1., 13 February 1987
- "Reginald "Reg" Spiers". Athletics Australia. Retrieved 20 October 2011.
- Ronay, Barney (25 September 2010). "The day Phillips Idowu skipped the chance to be a bridge-builder". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 October 2011.
- McSorley, J. & McSorley, M. (2014). Out Of The Box: The Highs and Lows of a Champion Smuggler, Roaring Forties Press: California. ISBN 978-1-938901-32-4
- Weerasooria, W.S. (1988). Links between Sri Lanka and Australia: a book about the Sri Lankans (Ceylonese) in Australia, Australian Government Press: Canberra. ISBN 978-955-563-003-0. p. 26.
- "Drug dealing daughter of former athlete Reg Spiers jailed for six years". Adelaide Now. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
- "ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS: Mr Reg Spiers". Australian Senate. Retrieved 20 October 2011.
- "Ex-Australian Javelin Champion Sentenced to Death on Drug Charges in Sri Lanka". Los Angeles Times. 3 June 1987. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
- "Australian athlete to hang on drug count". The Canberra Times. 61: 1. 3 June 1987.