Hot off the press from Bega News!
When 22-year-old police reporter for the Toronto Sun Sandi Logan saw a story about two women apprehended with a campervan full of drugs in Australia click over the old wire machine on his reporter’s desk, he never imagined more than 40 years later he would publish his first book about the two women who became known as the ‘drug grannies’ and their fight for justice.
Yet for Mr Logan, now a Mystery Bay local on the NSW Far South Coast, a “confluence of circumstances” have led him to exactly that. The former journalist’s first book ‘Betrayed’ by publisher Hachette is released in Australia on June 1.
Vera “Toddie” Hayes and Florice “Beezie” Bessire, both from La Pine in America’s north west, were on a self-described “trip of a lifetime” road-tripping the world and ending in Australia – all funded by Ms Hayes’ nephew Vern Todd.
However they were arrested in 1978 when police found 1.9 tonnes of hashish hidden beneath the floorboards and inside the walls of their campervan. It was, at the time, Australia’s biggest drug-smuggling bust. Both women were sentenced to 14 years imprisonment with no parole.
Mr Logan repeatedly contacted the ‘two prisoners’ – as they were called – asking for an interview. His persistence gained him access where many other media outlets failed.
He met with the two women over a cup of international roasted instant coffee in their prison.
It was here he appreciated this story was more than just your daily news cycle. He realised the pair had been set up by Mr Todd.
“I never considered it more than just an ordinary yarn,” Mr Logan said. “I was a young reporter.
“When I began talking with them I realised they had been badly duped and I had to do something about it.
“I couldn’t just write a ten paragraph yarn and move on to tomorrow’s story.”
Mr Logan spent 3.5 years meeting weekly, sometimes more frequently, with the two women, supporting them and advocating for their release.
While the women were sentenced with no parole, Mr Logan said there were flags suggesting an early release was quite possible for the pair.
The attorney general rejected a review of the case at the three year mark, so too the four and five year mark.
That rejection in 1983 was the moment Mr Logan decided to write a book about the case.
“I am not just going to write articles about this,” he said. “I am going to be screaming at the top of my lungs in the form of a book.”