Lindsay Sandiford is a British grandmother that is currently imprisoned in Indonesia on death row, having been convicted of attempting to smuggle drugs into the nation.

Her imprisonment has caused controversy. Sandiford claims that she was coerced by a criminal gang into smuggling the drugs, and did so to protect her vulnerable son. She also took part in a sting operation to bring the rest of the gang to justice.

Indonesia has a strict zero-tolerance approach to drugs, and the death penalty is a common punishment. But most were surprised at Sandiford’s sentence. Many have urged the British government to step in.

There is certainly a strong debate surrounding Sandiford, and what she deserves. But unless anything changes, then Sandiford will eventually receive the death penalty.

Who is Lindsay Sandiford?

Sandiford worked as a legal secretary at the time of her arrest. She is a mother of two, and is also a grandmother. She was originally from Teeside, England.

She resided in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England, prior to her arrest. She was born in 1956, and so is currently in her mid 60s.

What Happened to Lindsay Sandiford?

On 19th May 2012, Sandiford was travelling from Thailand to Indonesia. She reached the Ngurah Rai International Airport, though was stopped for a routine luggage search.

When doing so, staff found 10 pounds of cocaine in heer luggage, which had a street value of approximately £1.6million. Sandiford was interviewed by the Police, and claimed that she had been coerced into carrying the drugs by a criminal gang led by a man named Julian Ponder.

Ponder was a British citizen who worked as an antiques dealer. He lived in Bali, Indonesia at the time. His partner Rachel Dougall was also implicated by Sandiford.

Sandiford said that Ponder had threatened harm to her children, which is why she went ahead with the plan to try and smuggle drugs into Indonesia. She said that she was unaware of Indonesia’s drug laws – which are among the strictest in the world.

Sandiford’s son Eliot said that he believed his mother was forced into the situation due to a disagreement over rent money that Sandiford had paid on his behalf.

Sandiford agreed to cooperate with the Police by taking part in a sting operation. The operation was a success, and resulted in numerous other members of the gang being arrested.

Amongst those arrested included Ponder and Dougall, whose residence was found to have almost 50grams of cocaine located in it. A man named Paul Beales was arrested too.


Sandiford was put on trial, and eventually convicted of attempted drug smuggling. She was sentenced to death by firing squad in January 2013. Her sentence caused shock and outrage.

Other members of the alleged criminal gang received much lesser sentences, including the supposed mastermind – Julian Ponder., who received 6 years in prison. Dougall received 1 year and Beales received a 4 year sentence.

The fact that Sandiford had assisted with the Police, her apparent mental health problems, and how her co-conspirators received lesser sentences, led to the surprise at the death sentence being handed down. The prosecutors had recommended a 15-year sentence.

The sentence was met with horror in Sandiford’s native United Kingdom. The British government condemned the ruling. Sandiford was imprisoned at Kerobokan Prison.


Sandiford appealed the sentence. Whilst she had funded her own original defence, she appealed for financial aid from the British government to assist with her appeal.

The British government declined to assist financially, but stated they were “strongly opposed” to the death penalty. They also provided consular support.

However, supporters around the world were able to raise money for Sandiford’s appeal. Her appeal was also supported by the anti-death penalty campaign group Reprieve.

But the appeals were unsuccessful. The High Court rejected the appeal in April 2013. Sandiford then took her case to the Indonesian Supreme Court, who also dismissed the appeal.

Sandiford’s final chance of reversing the sentence was to apply for a Presidential pardon. But this was dismissed. The then-President Susilo Bambang Yudhiyono had granted clemency to four people since taking office in 2004, but opted to not do so with Sandiford.

As a result, Sandiford has exhausted all of her appeals. Unless new information comes to light, Sandiford will not get an opportunity to seek any further legal challenges.

Where is Lindsay Sandiford now?

Sandiford has been at the same prison since her original sentencing. The name of the prison is Kerobokan Prison, which is notorious for its poor conditions.

Kerobokan Prison contains many foreign nationals who have been convicted for drug smuggling offences. These included members of the so-called “Bali Nine” – Andrew Chan and Myuran Suklumaran – prior to their executions.

What will happen to Lindsay Sandiford now?

Sandiford has exhausted all of her appeals, and is on death row. It seems inevitable that she will be executed at some point, though no date has been set.

Prisoners are only notified of their execution date 72 hours before their death. Death sentences in Indonesia are carried out by firing squad.

The Takeaway

The Lindsay Sandiford case is certainly controversial, and has led to much debate. When the emotion gets taken out of the case, it could surely be argued that Sandiford knew the risk of what she was doing, and the potential consequences. Therefore, many have limited sympathy for her.

However, if she did indeed do the crime as a means of protecting her children, isn’t this what any loving mother would do? As the clock counts down towards her execution, these questions will become even more impoirtant.

Does Lindsay Sandiford deserve the Death Penalty?