Woman Enjoying Her Freedom After a Dozen Years in Bali Prison

Picture this: It’s time for a nice vacation. You pack up your things, check them onto your flight, hop onto the plane and get ready for fun. As you land, you go through customs and you have your bag checked. Then something terrible happens. When customs go through your bag they find something you didn’t put there. You try to explain or defend yourself, but to no avail. You are arrested, tried and convicted.

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That’s what happened to Schapelle Corby. After spending a dozen years in prison, Australian Corby was released from prison in Bali and sent home, and is now making something of a name for herself.

To learn more and hear her story, click ‘Start Slideshow’ to begin!

Who is Schapelle Corby?

Before the incident, Schapelle Corby was a normal Australian girl. She was born in 1977 and has more than a few brothers and sisters. She dropped out of high school and spent some time taking a beauty therapy course. She didn’t finish that, either. She worked for a shop her family owned, then at a supermarket, and that’s about it. She was married to a man she met in the mid-’90s, but was divorced in 2003. Now that the boring stuff is out of the way, let’s get to the craziness.

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Trouble Begins

On October 8, 2004, Schapelle Corby set out with her brother and two friends for some time in Bali, a resort island off Indonesia. Corby had been there multiple times in the past, as it’s a stop between Australia and Japan, where she had lived for some time with her former husband. Her sister Mercedes also lived in Bali, giving her more reasons to visit. The group boarded the plane, took off, and landed in Bali. Traveling to a different country requires a trip through customs, and Corby handed over her bodyboard bag for inspection. When it was opened, authorities asked whose it was, to which Corby admitted it was hers. Inside was found 9.3 pounds of cannabis. Corby was in trouble.

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Conflicting Events

Right away, things get interesting. Schapelle Corby admitted the bag was hers, but said she knew nothing of the contents inside, other than her bodyboard. A big part of her defense suggested someone had placed the drugs in her bag, making her an unwitting drug courier. They even went so far as to say the baggage handlers had done it. Things were made more confusing by the different points of view when the discovery was made. Customs officials say Corby had attempted to keep them from opening the bag, while Corby denies this, citing trouble communicating with the authorities. She claims to have been the one who opened it for authorities.

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Corby Under Arrest

With this discovery, authorities had no recourse but to arrest Schapelle Corby. She was charged with importing cannabis, and it wouldn’t be long before her trial would begin. In order to assist with her case, the government of Australia provided two attorneys on a pro-bono basis. Almost right away, Corby started running into issues with her defense. It was clear this wasn’t going to be an easy case.

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Corby’s Defense: Part One

There were multiple parts to Schapelle Corby’s defense strategy. Everything revolved around her not knowing anything about the drugs, but that brings about the question of how they got there in the first place. The first theory was that the drugs were put into her bags in Brisbane and meant to be removed in Sydney, the first stop on her flight to Bali. It was initially suggested this had been done by baggage handlers at the airport, a claim which was supported by an investigator who said there had been cases in the past of drugs being transported this way. However, Corby’s lawyer in a documentary later said he had fabricated that theory.

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Corby’s Defense: Part Two

Now, even though the lawyer made up the initial idea, that doesn’t mean there couldn’t have been some validity to the thought someone had tampered with Schapelle Corby’s bag. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the same day Corby was traveling, a large shipment of cocaine was being moved by a drug ring via corrupt baggage handlers. The Australian Federal Police, however, doubted the claim, saying it wasn’t supported by the intelligence on hand and that the ring had been smuggling overseas, not domestically.

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Corby’s Defense: Part Three

There were several witnesses brought in to help with Schapelle Corby’s defense. Her brother and the two friends traveling with her that day said they had witnessed her packing her own bag in question before heading toward the airport and only the bodyboard and flippers were inside. Another witness was flown into Indonesia from prison of Port Phillip on other charges. John Patrick Ford testified he heard two prisoners talking about how a shipment of drugs going from Brisbane to Sydney had gone missing, and that a man named Ron Vigenser was involved. However, the prosecution said the evidence was hearsay and Vigenser vehemently denied being involved with the Corby case.

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Missteps and More Information

There were some real issues with the investigation of the Schapelle Corby case. The basis of the prosecution’s argument was that the drugs were found in a bag she said was hers, that authorities claimed she tried to get them to not open it, and that she said “I have some …”, as though she was going to confess something. There were also issues with the defense attempting to acquire evidence. For instance, the defense requested that closed circuit television footage of Bali customs be used to show the moment her bag was being checked. The prosecutors never looked at it and it was never shown.

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Further Evidence Issues

One of, I feel, the biggest things denied to Schapelle Corby was a request by Corby for Bali customs to weigh the luggage she and her companions had checked. When they checked their luggage in Brisbane, the total weight of all their bags was 65 kilograms. When in Bali, the bags weren’t weighed again. Had they been weighed and shown to have an increased weight of 4.2 kilograms, the amount of cannabis found within her bag, it would prove she did not put it in there, but someone else had after it was checked. This, to me, would have been some incredible evidence to help her case. Alas, there was no such luck.

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Forensic Fumbles

According to an expert in the laws of the area, should some extra attention been put on forensics, Schapelle Corby’s case could have been quite different. First, there was the issue of the cannabis and how it was packed. It came in a vacuum sealed bag which had been sealed into another bag. Requests had been made to test the inner bag for fingerprints, but these requests were determined as unnecessary by the prosecution since the bags were in Corby’s possession. There was also an attempt made to determine a point of origin of the cannabis with the idea being if it had been grown somewhere Corby never traveled, it would shine some doubt on her guilt. This never happened as the Bali authorities declined to give a sample.

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A Plea for Freedom

As the defense made its final statements to the court, Schapelle Corby made one last statement to the judges.

“I cannot admit to a crime I did not commit. And, to the judges, my life at the moment is in your hands, but I would prefer if my life was in your hearts … And, your Honor, I ask of you to show compassion, to find me innocent, to send me home. Saya tidak bersalah.”

The final part of her statement means “I am not guilty” in the Indonesian language. Unfortunately, it would seem her pleas fell on deaf ears.

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Verdict and Sentencing

On May 27, 2005, all eyes were on the television as the verdict and sentencing of Schapelle Corby was broadcast out live across Australia and New Zealand. Everyone wanted to know what was going to happen in one of the most interesting cases of the year. That day, Corby was, unfortunately, found guilty of smuggling. She was sentenced to a steep twenty years in jail and was fined just about $1M in the Indonesian currency, which came out to $12,663 Australian. If she didn’t pay up, she would serve another six months. Both the defense and prosecution did appeal the sentence. The defense sought a retrial, while the prosecution wanted her in prison for life.

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Additional Rulings

Two months after the verdict was handed down, the honorable High Court of Bali granted the defense a chance to bring new witnesses who may have information about how the drugs ended up in Schapelle Corby’s bag. The defense put forward a name, but that person claimed to know nothing. In October of 2005, the honorable High Court again weighed in, this time reducing Corby’s sentence to 15 years from the original 20. However, the Supreme Court of Indonesia stepped in and overruled that after some new potential evidence was revealed, returning her sentence to 20 years and ordering the evidence from the case destroyed, thus closing the case.

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Possible Breakthrough

In 2006, an appeal was made to the district court in which she was being held prisoner. Schapelle Corby and her lawyers presented a letter stating the Australian government had made it know closed circuit television cameras had been running at the Sydney airport the day of the incident, and they intended to get the footage and present it as evidence. The lawyers also contested again the lack of evidence showing Corby owned the drugs. Neither ploy worked. No footage was ever proven to exist of drugs being placed into Corby’s bag and the sentence did not change.

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A Kink in the Case

An incident happened at one point during Schapelle Corby’s imprisonment which shed a fair bit of doubt on any possible innocence she may have had. Back in Australia, authorities had raided the home of a male who was charged with smuggling marijuana. In his home, they found pictures of him with Corby. According to the media, these photos had been taken before Corby was arrested, which didn’t look good. However, the man and Corby contested this fact, saying they had met in 2005 when he visited her during her court hearing to show support. According to the man, Corby’s mother had invited him to go to the prison to meet Corby, and the pictures were apparently taken in the prison. It was because of these photos the Indonesian Supreme Court returned her sentence to a 20-year term after it was previously dropped to 15.

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Life Behind Bars

Schapelle Corby’s time in prison was mostly uneventful. She had a lot of years ahead of her, so she tried to make the best of it. She used her the beauty school training she had to help other prisoners with their personal grooming. She also made jewelry. Corby said in an interview she had asked permission to run her own beauty school in prison. It didn’t pan out, apparently. There was a bit of an incident which wasn’t exactly Corby’s fault in 2007. Somebody was offering tours of the area, saying people could have their photo taken with Corby. As a result, rules regarding visitation were tightened.

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Downward Spiral

In June of 2008, Schapelle Corby was removed from her cell and taken to a hospital in Bali. She claimed to be suffering from depression, and treatment would be started to help her. The next month, Corby was allowed to leave the hospital in order to have her hair done and to receive a pedicure. This was, of course, under armed guard. However, numerous reporters had gotten wind of Corby’s presence and began to swarm around her once she left the salon. Her doctor said this event reversed any progress they had made, requiring her to begin treatment again. After a total of two and a half weeks, Corby was returned to prison to continue her sentence.

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Still Spiraling

The following year, Schapelle Corby was again admitted to the hospital for depression. In August of that year, an Australian psychiatrist was flown to Bali on the dime of New Idea magazine in order to check Corby’s condition. He found her to be in a dire situation. He determined her mental condition was deteriorating and she needed to be put into a hospital, preferably in Australia, but in Indonesia, if necessary. At this point, Corby had been put on medication both for depression and for instances of psychosis. It was this deteriorating mental state which, when put forth to the president of Indonesia in a letter asking for clemency, convinced the president to strike five years from Corby’s sentence.

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Light at the End of the Tunnel

With the Indonesian president removing five years from her sentence and various remissions made over the years for various things, Schapelle Corby was now slated to be released from prison on September 25, 2016. On February 7, 2014, Corby was paroled, and on February 10, she was able to walk out of prison a somewhat free woman after nine years in prison. As a parolee, she had certain guidelines to follow. She had to stay in Bali, could not use or distribute drugs and had to have the parole board keeping an eye on her, among other things. She could travel across Indonesia, with special permission, but was not allowed to leave the country until her parole ended in May of 2017.

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Unsubstantiated Claims

Sometime in 2014, a woman named Renae Lawrence made an announcement regarding Schapelle Corby. During an interview, Lawrence, a convicted drug smuggler from Australia who had spent some time in the same prison as Corby, said Corby had admitted her guilt while they were in prison together. Not only that, Lawrence said Corby claimed to have made the same drug run multiple times before being caught. To make matters worse, Lawrence said Corby had faked her depression in a bid to have her sentence shortened. Sources in the prison say Lawrence and Corby didn’t have the best relationship, however, so the validity of these statements went unchecked.

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A Free Woman

On May 27, 2017, Schapelle Corby became a free woman. She was not, however, allowed to stay in Indonesia. The same day of her release, Corby was slated to be deported from Bali back to Australia, leaving behind 13 years in the Indonesian prison system, and heading home for the first time in more than a decade. She did ask if she would be allowed to return to the country for “sightseeing,” and also likely to see her sister. Most foreigners who have been deported from the country are restricted from heading back for six months. It is unclear when, or if, Corby will be able to return. So, on May 27, Corby and her sister hopped into a plane and landed in Brisbane, Australia.

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Final Moments

Everything leading up to Schapelle Corby’s departure from Bali was something of a blur. Multiple organizations worked to make sure she got out of the country swiftly and safely, and this was something Corby had begun to document on Instagram. She set up an account, and within hours she had thousands of followers. She took photos of her dogs in Bali, of the people with whom she had been close, of her parole papers, of the media frenzy and more. She and her sister Mercedes even took a selfie as they made their way towards the airport. Perhaps the best was a video of one of the people trying to take photos falling over a wall.

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Trying to Help

Schapelle Corby wasn’t going to let her notoriety go to waste, it seems. As she made her way back to Australia, she carried a bag with her, emblazoned with a picture on the side, asking the question “Where’s William Tyrrell?” At the time of William’s disappearance in 2014, he was only three years old. William and his sister were in the care of their foster grandmother when he went missing. He is believed to have been abducted, and years later there is no new evidence regarding his case. Though it seems Corby just wanted to help, the campaign to find William was apparently not happy. They made a statement on their Facebook page which read “William’s family and their campaign to support the (New South Wales) Police … have absolutely no association with Schapelle Corby.” I would think any exposure is good exposure, in this case.

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Still Posting

Two days after her return home, Schapelle Corby again posted about a missing child. This time, she posted a picture of Hayley Dodd, a young girl who went missing in 1999 at the age of 17. It seemed Corby was dedicated to spreading the message. In her post, she wrote “There are so many missing children in Australia, more awareness needs to be raised.” The photo has received more than 10,000 likes so far. Still, many comments remain very negative toward Corby, even on posts such as these. She had her defenders, but many people seem to just want to be able to get some sort of jab in.

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Life in Bali

Though she was already home, Schapelle Corby continued to post pictures of her life after being paroled in Bali. She shared a photo of her siblings, a chicken and her dogs. She posted an incredible image of the sunset in Bali. She captured the last handshake with her parole officer. She even grabbed a couple videos, including one in which she shows off items she’s leaving behind, including her boogie board, and another when she’s leaving to the airport, and dealing with the media storm outside her front door.

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Personal Glimpse

Perhaps most interesting are the photos Schapelle has posted of her life behind bars. One such photo shows a cellmate of hers who had become a friend giving her a manicure before she was released from prison. She had borrowed a guard’s phone to have the image taken and he shared it with her. It’s a great moment between two people in a trying situation. One which speaks to the connections we can make in life.

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Life Goes On

As the days passed, Schapelle Corby continued to share photos of her life. She posted images from her 40th birthday party, her first since returning to Australia after 13 years in Bali. The photos have nothing but smiles and celebration, except for a weird one in which somebody has been blurred out. I guess they just really didn’t want to be in the picture. She also posted a series of photos of herself just exploring Australia again, enjoying her homeland’s beautiful sights and sounds for the first time in a long time.

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Damage and Recovery

Less than a month after arriving home, Schapelle posted an image of herself in a hospital bed. She had suffered a broken leg, ankle and knee. She didn’t say how it happened, but the next couple months featured plenty of photos of her walking around with crutches and trying to make the best of a bad situation. The only communicating with the public Schapelle does now is through social media, as she avoids any sort of contact with media outlets. It would seem, as of her latest photos, she’s all healed up.

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Ever Growing

Now, just four months after her return to Australia, Schapelle Corby has amassed more than 200,000 followers. That’s 200,000 people looking to get more information about this woman and her incredible story. If the autobiography, made-for-tv movie and any future endeavors aren’t enough, perhaps you might consider giving her a follow. She’s only made a few dozen posts since she started the account, but there’s no telling what may show up on there next. Thanks for sharing, Schapelle!

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