Pensioner’s drug saga: ‘I was just trying to help’
AUTHORITIES had no clue that millions of dollars worth of drugs had arrived in Brisbane before Ray Marsden walked into Bribie Island police station with suspect packages of "tiles''.
Mr Marsden says he did not know six boxes he had collected two days earlier, as a favour to a Nepalese friend, contained 24 kilograms of pure methamphetamines.
Nor did he realise he was handing police evidence to charge him with importing a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug - a potential life sentence offence.
"I've been in a living hell for two and a half years,'' Mr Marsden said on Thursday, after a jury found him not guilty of the charge, after a two-and-a-half day trial.
As an emotional Mr Marsden later sat outside Brisbane's Supreme Court, one of the trial jurors congratulated and hugged the 67-year-old Buddhist pensioner.
"I could have spent up to 20 years in jail, when I was just trying to help,'' the Bribie Island pensioner told The Courier-Mail.
"Police had absolutely no clue about the drugs. They said they were worth 60 to 100 million dollars and I've taken them off the streets, I've put a huge dent in a major drug syndicate.''
Mr Marsden had been asked by his Nepalese friend, Pashupatti, whom he still calls his "adopted son'', to collect boxes of Chinese decorative tiles, for another man, Bikram.
"I would trust Pashupatti with my life,'' Mr Marsden told Federal Police as he sat through two and a half hours of questioning, on January 20, 2016.
Mr Marsden said he became concerned when he went to the Port of Brisbane and found 10 boxes that were much more in size and weight than he had expected.
He said he had earlier tried to question Bikram, in emails, about the consignment contents, without getting answers.
"I probably should have bowed out of it right there and then,'' he said during the police interview, shown to the jury.
Bikram told him to take a police officer with him when he collected the boxes, if he was concerned.
Two days after collecting six of 10 boxes sent from China, a worried Mr Marsden took some packaged tiles and copies of all email exchanges with Bikram, to his local police station.
At his urging, an officer opened up one of the tiles and found crystal rocks of methamphetamines. The total consignment contained 43 kilos of pure methamphetamines.
"I came here this morning of my own free will, knowing something was wrong,'' he later told federal agents before he was charged.
Mr Marsden, who had just come back from studying at a Nepalese monastery, said he had taken a Buddhist vow not to have anything to do with drugs.
"I do not do drugs ... I am totally against drugs,'' he said.
Mr Marsden said one of his biggest regrets was naively going into Bribie police station and he would not advise anyone to do what he did, without legal advice.
"I was just thrown in jail,'' said Mr Marsden, who spent five weeks in custody, including 10 days in the Brisbane watch-house.
"There wasn't one bit of evidence at the trial that I didn't give them. I dobbed myself in.''
While some involved in the drug importation were jailed, his friend Pashupatti was not charged and Mr Marsden believes he also was conned.
"He is still my son. There is no way in the world I will believe he knew about it,'' he said.
"He has shown me nothing but friendship.''