As expected, Cassie’s Sainsbury’s family publicising her situation has fueled media pursuit of the story. The strangeness of their version of events, with the inconsistencies and the odd procurement of headphones as gifts that turned out to have 5.8kgs of cocaine in them, along with Cassie’s claim of innocence provide much scope for revelation.
What is the new information?
Cassie’s trip was apparently not confined to Colombia. According to her Instagram she flew first to China, then Los Angeles, then on to Bogota, over the space of a couple of weeks. She posted about an all expenses paid trip that was great, being mostly holiday with very little work.
Information obtained by the media indicates her return trip from Bogota on 11 April was to London, France, Hong Kong and then home. Based on what her sister has said about picking her up from the airport in Adelaide on Saturday, 15 April, it does not appear she intended to spend much time in any of those destinations.
There are also posts about a work trip to Canada in January this year and a cruise to Vanuatu and the Pacific Islands in October 2016 (the holiday during which her boyfriend proposed).
The problem with these trips is that there is still no consistent explanation for the work she was doing. Her posts, and her sister’s prior comments, suggest something related to personal training, but her fiancé has confirmed she has not done this work for at least 6 months and her relevant credentials have lapsed. Her fiancé maintains she helped manage a cleaning business with national and international clients, but no company has confirmed this or been found, and it’s not consistent with Cassie’s own commentary on Instagram. Besides which, what cleaning company sends a young assistant manager of sorts on what is effectively a series of junkets?
So what was she actually doing? And who was paying for the trips? Or, how was she paying for them?
Explaining the purpose and circumstances of and activities during a trip, not to mention the details of one’s employment are a simple matter, unless someone has something to conceal. And there are limited circumstances where that is necessary.
One such is sex work. Though I was open about it, many workers are not, and most of them have cover stories about their work and any traveling (touring) they do. Usually these are well thought-out and consistent, but occasionally they have slipped up. However, I can categorically rule out sex work being her purpose. Aside from the illegality in many of those destinations, the money simply isn’t worth it; in many of those places she’d earn a lot less in much worse conditions than in Australia. If she was capable of organising an independent trip, which that would be, she certainly wouldn’t be stupid enough to go to where she did.
Another possibility is government or security work. Another is drug trafficking.
Perhaps most damningly, it has been reported that it was the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in America that tipped off the Colombians, notifying them shortly after her arrival in Bogota. This is consistent with her flying via/spending some time in Los Angeles prior to Bogota. Something raised the American’s suspicions.
At a guess this would be one of four things. 1. That the travel route she was on was a known one for mules/traffickers, much like a short trip by a single Westerner to a single South American city can raise alarm bells; 2. That her ticket was purchased not by her but by someone else, with something about the person or purchase that raised suspicions; 3. That they suspected she brought something into the US from China; 4. That she had already been flagged due to prior trips. Since writing this it looks to be the second possibility, at least, with reports that authorities have said her ticket was purchased by someone in Hong Kong at the last minute.
This now looks much bigger than even a single mule run to Bogota, much less an unsuspecting inexperienced tourist being duped. What was she doing in China and then the United States? Why that order of travel? Was the extended trip to act as a decoy as to its real purpose or was something else related happening in those places? What were her other trips for? If some of this trip or others were holiday time, how was that paid for? Given her return itinerary, one would assume London was the intended destination of the drugs intercepted in Colombia, so was it that an Australian girl was thought more likely to be overlooked by British customs?
What does this mean?
The reporting of these components highlights the problems with going public with such a dubious story. Cassie’s situation is now under intense scrutiny and so cannot be dealt with quietly or potentially with as much leniency as might otherwise have been available.
Whether this has come about due to media investigation or because the Colombians became (justifiably) defensive due to the family’s claims of a setup and corruption makes little difference. The damaging elements of the story cannot be backed away from. Cassie’s attitude and this information will be taken into account. That is not to say that it all wouldn’t have been considered otherwise. The Colombian authorities were clearly way ahead on this, as one would expect from a country that has extensive experience dealing with these types of matters. They were probably shaking their heads in frustration and amusement when they heard her version relayed by her family. But crucially, there is now limited to no wiggle room for Cassie.
It was suggested that if she plead guilty, took responsibility and assisted authorities she might have received a sentence of 4-6 years. Yesterday the Ports and Airports Director of Colombia’s Anti-Narcotics Division stated it might be 8-10 years. The maximum, which would incorporate where someone is more involved in the trafficking, is reported as 20-25 years.
Cassie’s situation is also a reminder of the stupidity of getting involved in a situation like this. For all that a person thinks they are innocuous, sneaking under a radar, they aren’t. The patterns and consistencies in the method used by drug traffickers are known by authorities and raise alarm bells. They can access purchase, flight, accommodation and contact information, and certain things stand out. Agencies share information. They also have extensive resources to investigate. So if you’re caught, and many are, a cover story isn’t going to stand up.