Drug smuggling charge fight steps up

THE mother of an Essex care home manager awaiting trial in the West Indies on drug smuggling charges has told of her hopes she will freed this week. Sheila Telfer, a professional counsellor from Colchester, has been in the Dominican Republic for more than three months supporting her youngest child, Marianne, who was arrested following the death of her boyfriend, Richard Flack, in February.

THE mother of an Essex care home manager awaiting trial in the West Indies on drug smuggling charges has told of her hopes she will freed this week.

Sheila Telfer, a professional counsellor from Colchester, has been in the Dominican Republic for more than three months supporting her youngest child, Marianne, who was arrested following the death of her boyfriend, Richard Flack, in February.

Her husband, Roger, flies out this morning to join her ahead of their daughter's new habeas corpus appeal on Thursday.

Last night, Mrs Telfer said she was "hoping against hope" Marianne - who vehemently protests her innocence - would be freed, but added she was also prepared for more disappointment.


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Marianne has also told the EADT of the agonising "frustration" of her life behind bars and her hopes that she could soon return home.

The hearing in Santiago on Thursday will be heard by five judges, and is the second attempt at freedom by Marianne's new legal team.

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It follows the chaos of two weeks ago when the Forteleza San Felipe prison authorities would not let the care home manager leave the compound for her appeal.

However, in a letter to East Anglian Daily Times, Mrs Telfer, who rushed to the Caribbean within days of her daughter's arrest, says the prison has since apologised to Marianne for the "mix-up" in paperwork.

Mrs Telfer wrote: "We are still reeling from the planned habeas corpus appeal which could not go ahead two weeks ago.

"It is a very tense time. Whilst on the one hand I hope against hope that nothing will go wrong this time and the five judges will see the case for what it is - i.e. a gross miscarriage of justice - I am loath to get too excited lest something might go wrong. We have been disappointed so many times.

"The support of friends and family keeps us going. Certainly we would not be in such reasonable emotional states had it not been for all the messages of support, phone calls and real effort of so many kind and thoughtful people. For this, we thank them all."

Mr Flack, a 34-year-old landscape gardener from Ardleigh, died when 18 condoms filled with the cocaine he was hoping to smuggle back to UK, burst inside his stomach.

Marianne, 28, who was arrested because police believe she was also involved, has maintained her innocence throughout. She protests she knew nothing of the recovering heroin addict's plans and claims she only agreed to the last-minute holiday in an effort to rescue their faltering relationship.

If convicted, Marianne, a manager at Acorn Village, Mistley, faces a sentence of up to 10 years in jail.

In a letter to the East Anglian Daily Times, she said her patience was wearing thin with the regulations at the Forteleza San Felipe prison.

She has been there since early March, although she was transferred to a new wing in April.

Clearly exasperated at the lack of progress with her case, Miss Telfer said she just longs to be back home with her friends and family.

She wrote: "After the terrible experience of not being allowed to leave the prison for my hearing on May 19 because of my papers being misplaced, I am crossing everything for Thursday.

"As time has gone on my patience is wearing thin. The rules and regulations in this new wing seem to change on a daily basis. On some days, my mum has to be strip-searched when she visits, but on others she is not.

"I was recently sanctioned for not standing to the lowering of the Dominican flag. Then I was sanctioned for not attending an optional religious service."

She added: "I cannot wait to get home and resume a normal life."

n A support fund set up for her has raised more than £1,400.

The Marianne Telfer Support Fund was established by friends of Colchester Institute lecturer, Roger Telfer, to raise money to contribute towards the more than £10,000 of legal and travel expenses incurred by his family in its fight to bring the 28-year-old home.

Details of how to donate can be found on a new website at www.justice4marianne.com.

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