NEWS

They got 14 years in jail for smuggling drugs; they say they didn’t do it (sort of); Colson can’t help them.

Charles Colson is accustomed to dealing with hardened criminals through the organization he heads, Prison Fellowship (PF). Now, however, he has embarked on a concerted campaign to free two American women tourists in their sixties who have been sentenced to 14 years in an Australian prison on a drug-smuggling conviction. The women say they were framed. The case of the “drug grannies” is becoming something of a sensation in Australia.

Convicted in 1978, Vera Hays and Florice Bessire claim they were framed by a nephew who continues to elude worldwide police searches. Both women came to personal faith in Christ while behind bars, and say that a visit and correspondence from PF director Colson have helped sustain them.

Now, because of their deteriorating health, Prison Fellowship has stepped up its efforts to bring them home. “We are seeking their release on compassionate grounds, based on their physical condition,” PF’S David Eno explained. “We’re trying to encourage people to write, because if Christians don’t get organized, we’ll probably see one of them die in jail.”

Bessire, 65, and Hays, 63, have received wide press attention in Australia, where public opinion has remained divided. The Australian press has tagged them “drug grannies,” a term of mixed affection and contempt, though neither is actually a grandmother.

Their troubles began when Vera Hays’s nephew, Vernon Todd, offered the pair an expense-paid trip around the world. He invited them to fly to Stuttgart, West Germany, pick up a Land Rover, drive it to Bombay, India, and then have it shipped to Australia, where he then lived.

Bessire and Hays were thrilled ...

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