AUSTRALIAN STORY investigates international drug smuggling
Australian Story: AN INNOCENT ABROAD - PART 1
Encouraged by her best friend to check out an internet dating site, Queensland primary schoolteacher Yoshe Taylor swiftly found herself immersed in the stuff of nightmares.
After exchanging messages with a young, attractive man who called himself Precious Max, Yoshe travelled to Cambodia to visit him. Although she cooled on the idea of a relationship, Precious Max convinced her he was keen to help set up an arts and crafts business with her on the Sunshine Coast.
“He seemed very nice,’” she says. “He knew I was looking for work, looking at doing something different.”
What Yoshe didn’t realise was she was being groomed to become part of an international drug smuggling ring - and she wasn’t the only one.
“This guy destroyed my entire life,’” says another one of Precious Max’s victims. “He’s in a drug cartel, you know. People die.”
Yoshe was arrested at the Phnom Penh airport in September 2013, after an airport officer found two kilograms of heroin intricately stitched into the lining of the backpack she had been asked to take with her. She was sentenced to 23 years in jail and largely forgotten. It wasn’t until years later that a group of Melbourne lawyers came together pro bono to amass the evidence to prove her innocence.
“It seemed like she’d slipped through the system,” says her solicitor Alex Wilson. “She really had been forgotten by everyone and left in that Cambodian prison.”
Now back in Australia and reunited with her two children, Yoshe is speaking exclusively to Australian Story in a two-part special about her ordeal and the perils of trusting people online.
PRODUCER: Belinda Hawkins