Saturday, November 27, 2021

Bali ‘suitcase killer’ released from prison

Heather Mack was granted early release for good behaviour after serving seven years of a 10-year jail sentence.

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An American woman convicted with her boyfriend of killing her mother and stuffing the body in a suitcase at a luxury Bali hotel was freed from prison on Friday.

In the notorious case, then teenager Heather Mack was handed a 10-year jail term in 2015 while her boyfriend Tommy Schaefer got 18 years for the murder of Chicago socialite Sheila von Wiese Mack on the Indonesian holiday island.

Schaefer beat the 62-year-old victim to death with a fruit bowl during a heated argument at the five-star St Regis resort, before the couple abandoned the suitcase containing the battered body in a taxi and fled.

Mack, who was pregnant at the time of the crime, was found guilty on a lesser charge of assisting in the murder.

Now 25, she was freed from Bali’s Kerobokan prison on Friday, the head of the prison’s female section said, saying Mack had been granted early release for good behaviour.

“Heather is completely free,” said prison head Lili, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.

“When she was released, she was a bit shocked and emotional. She hesitated and was scared, but we cheered her up.”

Wearing sunglasses and an orange prison vest, Mack, who was 19 at the time of her conviction, was handed to immigration officials to await deportation back to the US.

Bali’s immigration office declined to comment on her case or say when she would be flown back home.

It was not immediately clear if Mack’s now six-year-old daughter, who was being raised in a Bali foster home, would also be deported at the same time.

Earlier, Mack’s lawyer told AFP that she did not want her daughter to be deported and “hounded by the (US) media”.

Since the pandemic, Mack – now fluent in Indonesian and Balinese – has had only video contact with her daughter, the prison official said Friday.

The 2014 murder shook the usually sedate holiday island, with details of the grisly killing emerging during the closely followed trial.

The court heard how von Wiese Mack’s badly beaten body was discovered in the taxi outside the ritzy hotel where she had been staying with her daughter and Schaefer.

The couple had fled to another part of Bali, where police arrested them.

Schaefer, who remained in prison, confessed to the killing during his trial but claimed he was defending himself during an argument with von Wiese Mack, who was unhappy that her daughter was pregnant.

Prosecutors alleged that Schaefer “blindly hit” von Wiese Mack with the fruit bowl in a fit of rage after she hurled a racial slur at Schaefer, who is black.

During the attack, Mack hid in a bathroom but later helped Schaefer stuff the body into a suitcase, the trial heard.

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