An Australian mother has returned home, having spent almost six years in a Cambodian prison after she was lured into an internet love scam.
A Cambodian court ruled that Yoshe Ann Taylor, 47, was an innocent victim of a drug smuggling operation, duped by a man she thought loved her and wanted to help her.
Ms Taylor was confused and overwhelmed as she arrived at Brisbane airport this morning, where she was met by her Australian lawyer, Alex Wilson.
“We’re just overjoyed that this happened,” Ms Wilson said as she ushered Ms Taylor away.
“This is going to be a difficult time for her as she readies herself for this period in her life.”
Ms Taylor hopes to reunite with her children soon.
On her way home from what she thought was a legitimate business trip in 2013, Cambodian police found about 2 kilograms of heroin stitched into the lining of a backpack she was carrying.
Since the former primary school teacher was arrested in September that year, she has maintained that her new friend, whom she knew as Precious Max but whose real name is Precious Chineme Nwoko, asked her to carry home some local artefacts that Ms Taylor thought were for the arts and craft business she was hoping to set up with his assistance.
Before agreeing, she had checked the bag Nwoko gave her and found nothing untoward in it.
Ms Taylor was shocked when police stopped her and a young woman she thought was Nwoko’s business associate at the airport and found heroin hidden in the bag.
In 2014, Nigerian national Nwoko was sentenced to 27 years in jail, and 19-year-old Charlene Savarino to 25 years. They are both still serving time in prison.
Ms Taylor was sentenced to 23 years, a verdict that was upheld on appeal in 2016. Her children would be adults by the time she was free. But fresh evidence meant her case was reopened last year.
On Easter Friday, the Cambodian Court of Appeal ruled Ms Taylor had been the innocent victim of an internet love scam.
Judge Chay Chandaravann said Ms Taylor had been consistent in her testimony in all courts and described her as honest.
“You are now free and released,” he said, waiving the 50 million riel ($17,366) court fine.
After the judgement, Ms Taylor hugged her Cambodian lawyer, tears streaming down her face.
“Today, justice in Cambodia was done,” defence counsel Mosseny So told Australian Story.