She never could have imagined that the man who took her to church would have allowed her to be sent to a Turkish prison for more than seven years.
A 48-year-old woman from Durban arrived in South Africa two weeks ago after being trapped at a Turkish airport on September 21, 2012, with 18 kg of marijuana in her luggage.
She says she wants to remain anonymous “until I unmask them”.
The woman says she met the man through friends and he took her to the Full Gospel Church in Benoni. Four months later, he asked her to bring his brother a bag from Turkey.
She rebuffed and said she did not know the country, but he insisted she could simply take the bag and buy herself “nice things” with the R20 000 he promised her. Before going to OR Tambo Airport, the man handed her a bag, locked with a lock and $ 200.
“Only when I was on the plane did I start to wonder what was in the suitcase. I wanted to jump. I am a staunch Christian and I thought, Lord, what is this? “
In Istanbul, she went to the hotel at the airport booked for her. There she got a phone call from a stranger.
“They told me to go to McDonald’s and gave me the address.”
As she struggled down the stairs with the heavy suitcase, a man came to help her. At the bottom, he says he was a police officer and peppered her with questions. “I cried and said I really don’t know what’s in the bag.”
It turned out in the bag was 18 kg of marijuana, wrapped in plastic, wrapping paper and a blanket.
After three days in the police cells, she appeared in court. “The prosecutor said I can be glad I’m not in China, because then I was killed.”
Only nine months after she was captured, she was allowed to call her family. Four years later, on December 16, 2016, she was sentenced to nine years and four months in prison.
A Turkish doctor she was taken to at the time asked her how she became involved in such a thing because she looked decent and educated. “I just replied that I made a simple mistake, because what would it help to explain?”
She and another prisoner began to write to each other. He eventually helped her get a lawyer. The attorney visited her in prison, and seven years and four months after her arrest, she was released. But she is one of the lucky ones.
“Drug mules detained with me serve sentences of 20, 25 years.” She couldn’t even let her family know she was on her way to South Africa. At OR Tambo Airport, she borrowed someone’s phone to call her mother. She missed a lot of time and opportunities with her loved ones while in custody, such as her son’s 29-year-old wedding.