Woman admits 'drug mule' charge

DAVID CLARKSON
Last updated 11:36 17/07/2014
Laura Cilliers
South African Laura Cilliers admitted importing heroin when she appeared in court via video-link today from prison.

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A South African woman has admitted being a heroin drug mule on a flight into Christchurch from Singapore.

Name suppression was lifted today for 32-year-old bar worker Laura Elizabeth Cilliers, who had $1.2 million worth of heroin hidden in her luggage and inside her body when she was questioned at Christchurch Airport last month.

She was stopped by Customs officials on June 15 when she showed signs of illness, and she spent 13 days in Christchurch Hospital while drug pellets were allegedly expelled from her body. One pellet had to be surgically removed because of the health risk.

Cilliers originally appeared at a bedside Christchurch District Court sitting at Christchurch Hospital and has been in custody since her discharge from hospital.

A South African Consulate representative was in court for her appearance today, when she pleaded guilty to the charge of importing the class A drug. The Crown then withdrew a charge of possessing heroin for supply.

Judge David Saunders ruled out home detention for the woman, who appeared in court by video-link from the prison.

He called for a pre-sentence report but not the report that would allow her to be considered for community or home detention. He said that was not a realistic option because of the nature of the charge and her circumstances.

She had name suppression at her first court appearance, at the request of Customs while further inquiries were made, but the judge lifted the order today.

No summary of facts was read in court because the details are still being discussed by defence counsel Craig Ruane and the Crown. Judge Saunders said an agreed summary would be prepared for the sentencing, and for the probation officer who would do a pre-sentence interview with Cilliers.

Ruane said the substance of the summary was accepted: that Cilliers had imported about a kilo of heroin into New Zealand.

Cilliers was remanded in custody for sentencing on August 20.

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- The Press

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