When convicted drug smuggler Cassandra Sainsbury was arrested at Bogota airport in Colombia in April 2017, she denied knowing she was carrying a bag full of cocaine.
But now, five years later and back home in Australia after serving time in a Colombian prison, Sainsbury — dubbed Cocaine Cassie — has made a shocking revelation.
Not only was the then 22-year-old aware that the bag she was carrying into a Colombian airport contained drugs stuffed inside boxes of headphones, but the former sex worker had been a drug courier in Sydney for some time before making the trip overseas.
Speaking with Channel 7’s Spotlight, Sainsbury, from South Australia, admitted she knew what she was doing and what was going on, but "couldn’t do anything". She was "naive", she said.
She claims she was coerced into smuggling 5.8kg of cocaine, which saw her land a six-year prison sentence but was released early in 2020.
Work as a drug courier: 'I'm such an idiot'
It began when she took a job at a 'gentleman's club' in Sydney which she thought was reception work, but she ended up being employed as a sex worker.
While there, she was introduced to a man known only as "Joshua". He'd been recruiting people to deliver what Sainsbury assumed were "documents" to people around the CBD.
But they weren't documents, it was drugs.
She'd been making up to 15 deliveries per week and was earning $100 to $150 for each.
Soon enough, Joshua enlisted her and another woman for an overseas trip – a delivery to London. But on April 3, 2017, she found herself in Colombia instead with no return flight home.
While she didn't know it at the time, Sainsbury was involved in drug trafficking.
"I look back at it now and I’m such an idiot, to be honest, that I didn’t see it," she said.
"I really thought that I was actually going to be going with this girl ... we were told to receive documents and I thought that he couldn’t send her alone because he didn’t want her going alone overseas."
Arrested at airport with bag full of drugs
The now 27-year-old claims she was drugged and raped by her Bogota-based handler, known only as "Angelo", after he saw at a travel agency looking for a way home.
Angelo packed her bag, the one containing drug-filled headphones, before following her to the airport for her one-way flight to Los Angeles.
She claims she'd been told that she'd been followed and that if she didn’t go through with their plan, "there’s something bad that could happen to me," she said.
"I’d never seen what was in the bag, it was all taped up but I knew what was in it. But I didn’t see a way out," she said.
Sainsbury admitted she was "relieved" after Colombian police opened her bag at the airport and found headphones.
"Stupid little me didn’t think that in the middle of these packets of headphones there were rolls of cocaine," she said.
A new start for convicted drug smuggler
In prison, Sainsbury witnessed violence and also tried to take her own life.
She said it "gets to the point where you don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel," but last week, she arrived back in Adelaide for the first time since she left for Columbia in 2017, with her new wife.
She not long ago married Colombian computer technician Tatiana, who she met after her release from prison.
Five years after her arrest, the Adelaide woman says she's changed a lot.
"Having been so scared and gone through what I’d gone through is what made me realise that I can’t be scared, that I can stand up for myself. And I learnt to do it," she said. "I’m not the scared little person that I was six years ago."
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