A British pensioner who smuggled over 1 million euros of cocaine on to a cruise ship fears she will only leave her Lisbon prison in a coffin after suspected breast cancer scare. Susan Clarke, 71, has been in a maximum-security jail in Portugal since last September following her conviction following a drugs plot with husband Roger, 72.
The London pensioners, both jailed for eight years, claim they were conned by criminals into carrying suitcases with the hundreds of thousands of euros worth of cocaine hidden in the lining.
Further, Mrs. Clarke’s situation is made more difficult by the fact that she is living in fear of breast cancer after finding a lump, and is awaiting the results of a painful double biopsy on her left breast.
The pensioner, whose appeal against conviction was rejected earlier this month, told journalists from behind bars: “My health is terrible, I may never get out of here alive and there’s no way I can reduce my sentence now. We were made an example of but I’ve been handed a death sentence. My worry is that I’ll never be free and I’ll be leaving here in a box.”
The grandmother-of-eight, who has one great-grandchild also, said the worst torture was being apart from her husband Roger, who is serving his sentence in a different jail in Lisbon.
She wept as she told a reporter from the Mirror: “We feel completely abandoned. The Foreign Office has ignored us, Boris Johnson has not helped and we have been completely cut adrift. No pensioner should be treated like this. We found out our appeal had been dismissed. I’m devastated and angry. I want to go home, I want to go back to the UK. I want to be with Roger. That’s the worst thing, the worst torture, to be apart from him.”
This isn’t the first time that the drug-smuggling duo, originally from Kent, have found themselves behind bars. They were arrested in Norway in 2010 after they tried to smuggle 240 kilos of cannabis into Oslo.
After serving their sentences Mr. and Mrs. Clarke moved to a villa in Guardamar on Spain’s Costa Blanca and enjoyed a comfortable life in the expat community. Last year the couple went on a cruise from the Caribbean to Europe on the liner Marco Polo. Their luxury cruise came to a quick end when police raided their cabin following a tip-off from Britain’s National Crime Agency as the ship entered Lisbon.
Investigators found 20lbs of the Class A drugs in the lining of four suitcases which Mr. Clarke had been handed on the island of St Lucia. He claimed he was taking the suitcases back to the UK for a businessman friend who said he could sell the fancy goods inside for a big profit at Harrods.
Roger – serving his sentence in Lisbon’s EP Lisboa – said he had been asked to help negotiate the import of exotic fruit during cruise stopovers and he brought the suitcases for the friend as a sidejob. But prosecutors rejected his court claim that he had been betrayed by people he trusted in the supposed business scheme.
“I know my husband inside out and I know that he had no idea the drugs were there. I was in shock. It was just too much to comprehend. We were convinced we were set up because Roger had told his friends that this would be our last cruise,” claims Mrs. Clarke.
In prison, her only friend is a Filipina drug mule who also claims she is innocent. And Susan fears she may not survive the 400-inmate prison, which is infested with rats. She is on a daily cocktail of medication to treat high blood pressure, vertigo, reflux and arthritis. But while her health is poor, her husband’s is critical.
Mr. Clarke has been rushed to hospital for surgery to remove an ulcer from his bowel, and is having tests on his kidneys. Susan said: “If something isn’t done for Roger soon then he will die here. He’s lost seven stone since he was jailed. He wrote to Boris Johnson but we’ve heard nothing.”
Susan has lodged an application to be transferred to Britain to serve her sentence, claiming that “the only things we are guilty of is trusting people we thought were friends – and maybe of being a bit naive.”