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Ex Miss SA finalist speaks about hell in Thailand jail

She was caught smuggling 2,7kg of heroine

14 June 2011 | Bernice Maune

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A former Miss SA finalist shared her touching tale of 16 years behind bars in Thailand for drug smuggling at a crime awareness campaign in Rhodesfield on Friday.

Ms Vanessa Goosen spoke at the international drug smuggling awareness campaign hosted by Airports Company SA (ACSA) and Inguqu Placement Agency at the Premier Hotel.

The purpose of the function was to shine the spotlight on crime and to discuss the experiences of two former convicts.

Mr Sagie Govender of ACSA said ACSA had provided world class facilities to curb drug smuggling over the years. He cited CCTV control rooms, ablution facilities and dogs among ACSA's efforts to fight drug crimes.

He said ACSA had committed itself to working hand in hand with the police.

Mr Bond Nyoka, a former attorney, introduced Goosen. He was her lawyer for eight years.

"Vanessa was born in Port Elizabeth, raised in Cradock and moved to Johannesburg. In 1993 she was a Miss SA finalist. In 1994 she was arrested with 2,7kg of heroine and sentenced to life imprisonment in Thailand. It was later reduced to 35 years.

"In 1996 I was tasked to get her back home through a presidential pardon or government to government pardon. Both failed," said Nyoka.

Upon Goosen's return from a holiday in Thailand, immigration officials found heroine strapped to book covers she was carrying.

"A friend of my ex-boyfriend asked me to take the books with me back home. I agreed and was shocked to see the packets of heroine coming out of the books," said Goosen.

She recounted how she was taken to court, convicted and sent to a prison housing 4 000 women inmates.

"It was terrible. Three hundred women slept in an 18-inch cell, all intertwined. We had to buy everything from hot water, blankets to food. Nothing was free.

"I fell into a deep depression which took me four years to get over. I had to learn how to walk and talk all over again. The only thing that kept me going was my daughter," she said.

After several attempts to get Goosen pardoned, she was finally released on parole in November last year.

"I joined an NGO and through it am able to go to schools and speak to youngsters about drugs. I don't want young girls to end up where I did. We need to work together to warn and help others."

Mr Siyanda Mtulu, owner of Inguqu Placement Agency, explained his agency's role in crime awareness. A former convict himself, Mtulu said he realised there were few job opportunities for ex-inmates, which led to the birth of Inguqu.

Inguqu provides crime awareness programmes and projects to schools, companies and communities.

He said through his agency he had been able to provide ex-convicts with a future.

Pictures of crime awareness campaign

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