British diplomats have visited the six-year-old daughter of two Britons who are facing the death penalty in Bali over an alleged GBP 1.6 million cocaine smuggling ring.
Julian Ponder, 43, and Rachel Dougall, 38, are among four UK citizens held by Indonesian police accused of trying to smuggle 11lb of the drug onto Bali from Bangkok as part of an international trafficking gang.
Family members in Britain have been desperately trying to check that the couple’s young daughter is safe.
She is currently being looked after by Miss Dougall and Ponder’s maid and gardener, who say they have not told her the truth about what has happened to her parents.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said officials from the British Consulate in Bali have visited the girl and will continue to provide assistance.
But the FCO refused to confirm whether it is planning to fly her back to relatives in the UK.
Miss Dougall and Ponder were held by Indonesian police in a sting operation sparked by the arrest of Lindsay Sandiford, 55, a mother of two from Redcar, Cleveland.
They are accused along with a fourth Briton, named as Paul Beales, and an Indian man of attempting to smuggle cocaine into Bali.
Sandiford was detained at Bali’s international airport on May 19 after customs officials allegedly found 11lb of cocaine in the lining of her suitcase.
Yesterday, it emerged that she has agreed to cooperate with the police, in an attempt to reduce any future sentence and has told them details about Miss Dougall and Ponder’s alleged involvement in the plot.
“The reason she cooperated was, we pointed out that if she stayed silent, the whole illegal drug importation attempt would be on her shoulders,” Made Wijaya, the head of customs at Bali’s Ngurah Rai airport said.
Sandiford allegedly told drug squad officers that she had not met any of the other gang members but had received instructions to go to a hotel by the beach in Legian, near the fashionable area of Seminyak, and wait for a call.
Police decided to move her to a smaller hotel and told her to say the original one was full.
Four days after her arrest, Sandiford received a call from Ponder, allegedly telling her to go to a small resort called Villa Lumbung Dumah Buitan, in Candidasa on the island’s east coast.
Sandiford was allegedly told the drugs would be collected from there by a Thai contact linked to the people who had originally given her the cocaine in Bangkok.
Police believe she was watched by the other suspects for a couple of days before they approached her again.
Finally, at noon on May 25, Ponder came to the villa to meet Sandiford, police said. After picking up the drugs, which had been disguised as a present in pink wrapping paper, police arrested him.
Beales was also arrested that day near Candidasa in a separate vehicle.
Ponder was taken to the home he shared with Miss Dougall and their daughter. A search of their rooms turned up two packets of Marlboro cigarettes containing more cocaine, police said.
A friend of the couple described the police’s suggestion that they were part of an “international network” of drug traffickers as “a joke”.
“She [Miss Dougall] is a party girl and I believe that she has been caught up in this somehow. I think she has been coerced and wrapped up in a bigger game than she really understood.”
Another expat said: “She always had these fabulous designer clothes on. You’d see her dancing on the tables. She was the life of the party.”
News of the arrests shocked Bali’s large expat community, drawing comparisons with the “Bali Nine”, a group of Australians jailed in 2005 for trafficking heroin.
Two of those Australians are now on death row and are being held in the notorious Kerobokan jail to which the Britons are likely to be taken.
An FCO spokesman said: “We are opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances.”