Bevan Hurley is the Herald on Sunday chief reporter.

Heroin mule risked death

Scholarship-winner smuggled drugs to please boyfriend.

A gifted student risked a death sentence to smuggle $200,000 worth of heroin from Thailand to Australia after being pressured by her boyfriend.

Kay Louise Blair, 30, a former New Plymouth Girls' High School student, swallowed pellets of drugs and inserted them into her body on the insistence of her Nigerian boyfriend, court records show.

Customs officers at Sydney International Airport arrested Blair last February after her repetitive, short-term visits to Australia caused suspicion.

She admitted attempting to smuggle 200g of pure heroin and was sentenced to five years' jail in September. She would have faced a death penalty had she been prosecuted in Thailand, which has the most severe punishments in the world for drug-trafficking.

Her mother, Diana, said only the immediate family were aware of what had happened.

"Very few people in New Zealand know what Kay's situation is and where she is, and this is going to cause a lot of embarrassment to her wider family," she said.

"I would prefer not to make any comment at all, not because we're not supporting Kay, we are. But it's just not appropriate. She's certainly not at all likely to reoffend."

Blair moved to Southeast Asia several years ago, the court heard. The scholarship-winner at high school had an idyllic upbringing on a dairy farm in Taranaki. But after university she moved to Southeast Asia to please a boyfriend.

Judge Peter Berman was at a loss to explain how Blair had wound up as a drug-smuggler as she had been brought up "by parents who clearly love and support her" and had no criminal history.

"There is nothing in her background to explain why she did what she did, apart perhaps from a suggestion made by a psychologist that Ms Blair is easily led."

The judge had "grave suspicions" Blair smuggled drugs on other occasions, as she had travelled a lot and the trips were often paid for by her partner. But he added that he could not say for sure and treated her as a first-time offender.

Judge Berman said Blair had no friends or family in Australia and would face a lonely time in jail. He said there was no chance her sentence would be commuted so she could serve her time in New Zealand.

According to the Australian Crime Commission, the weight of national heroin seizures increased 400 per cent from 74.7kg in 2009-10 to 375.7kg in 2010-11.

- Herald on Sunday

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