The incredible untold inside story of the two most unlikely drug-running grannies in Australian history
Not heeding the old adage, if it’s ‘too good to be true, it usually is’, Vera Hayes (Toddie) and her longtime friend Florice Bessire (Beezie) accepted an offer from Toddies’ much loved[N1] , doted upon nephew, Vern Todd. All they had to do was drive a campervan from Germany to Bombay. So how did this unsuspecting retired duo, aged 59 and 61 years, end up at the government’s pleasure in an Australian jail for over five years? Sandi Logan in his first book ‘Betrayed’ has chronicled their story from their initial grooming by Todd, to their ultimate release on license and hence return to La Pine, Oregon.
It all started in May, 1977 when Toddie was approached by her nephew Vern to collect a motor home in Germany and to drive it to Bombay; an all-expenses paid trip with a $25,000 inducement. The first red flag which went unheeded was that there would be a small quantity of ‘grass’ (marijuana) aboard for Vern’s personal use. Definitely no ‘hard stuff’. Many more ‘red’ flags would be disregarded or not acted upon. As neither woman had ever travelled overseas before, this was going to be an adventure of a lifetime.
Having no foreign language skills, they safely maneuvered their eight metre Mercedes- Benz rig through Europe, however the Turkish border proved to be quite a challenge. On arrival in Bombay, the favourite nephew started showing his true colours and the pair were manipulated into flying to Australia as the vehicle had been shipped there.
They unwittingly became Australia’s biggest ever drug traffickers; the Drug Grannies. The van contained two tons of hash with a street value of between 12 and 19 million dollars. The government wanting to deter others, imposed a jail sentence of 14 years, which both in length and lack of a parole date, was unprecedented.
The convicted duo became unlikely friends with the then young journalist, who took up their cause for early release. The author felt that the pair had been unjustly handed a sentence unlike any other before them. By using amongst other resources Toddie’s and Breezie’s own diaries, court transcripts, and newspaper clippings he gives incredible insight to their untold story. The reader is left to determine whether they were just naïve or plain ‘drug couriers’.