Australian drug smuggler Schapelle Corby, whose trial and imprisonment on Indonesia’s tourist island of Bali mesmerized her country for more than a decade, returned home Sunday. Corby landed in the Queensland capital of Brisbane early Sunday morning, after she was deported from Bali amid a frenzy of journalists. More than 200 police officers were deployed to secure her departure from Denpasar, Bali’s capital, said Ida Bagus Adnyana, who heads Bali’s Justice and Human Rights office.
“Corby signed a document to end her parole. She is completely free now,” he said. Back on Australian soil, she managed to evade the waiting media throng and slip out of the airport unseen. A member of Corby’s security team, Eleanor Whitman, read a statement to journalists on behalf of the family.
“To all those in Australia and all those in Bali who have been there throughout this difficult journey, your support has not gone unnoticed,” the statement said. “The priority of our focus will now be on healing and moving forward.” Corby was arrested in 2004 at the age of 27 after customs officers at Bali’s airport found more than 4 kilograms (9 pounds) of marijuana inside her boogie board bag, sparking a media frenzy in Australia on par with America’s O.J. Simpson trial.
Corby always insisted the drugs had been planted in her bag, and most Australians initially believed her story. Her courtroom battle was tailor-made for TV: a photogenic Australian beach girl who had apparently fallen victim to corrupt officials in an Asian country that had come to be viewed with fear and suspicion after dozens of Australians were killed in the 2002 Bali bombings. Indonesians, who called Corby “Ganja Queen,” were mystified by Australia’s response. To them, the case was clear-cut, and the Australian outrage overly nationalistic.
Corby’s insistence that the drugs were planted by baggage handlers was dismissed as lies by Balinese prosecutors. A court sentenced her to 20 years in prison, though that was later reduced. In 2014, after nine years behind bars, she was released but had to stay in Bali until her parole expired on Saturday. In the lead-up to her deportation, she kept a low profile, living in a villa in Bali with her Indonesian boyfriend.
Australian media spent two weeks camped outside the villa, attempting to catch a glimpse of the elusive drug smuggler. Hoping to fool reporters, friends and family members took to donning bizarre face masks as they went to and from the property.
Though proving Corby’s innocence was once something of a national cause in Australia, unflattering reports about her family emerged over the years, sullying her image in many Australians’ eyes. Today, few Australians still believe Corby’s story but remain fascinated by the saga. Under Australian law, she will not be able to directly profit from telling her story.