A new life far from jail

By admin
12 November 2010

Vanessa Goosen recently returned to SA after 16 years in a Thai jail for a drugs offence. In an exclusive interview with YOU she tells of those long years of hardship, longing, reuniting with her daughter, finding new love and starting over.

Back in 1994 it made news headlines worldwide: a 1992 Miss SA finalist had been apprehended at Bangkok airport with 2,7 kg of heroin. The 20-year-old beauty was three months pregnant.

Now she’s free after her life sentence was set aside by a royal pardon. She still insists she’s innocent, an unsuspecting victim of a boyfriend who’d hidden the drugs in books he’d asked her to bring back from Bangkok.

She tearfully recalls saying goodbye to her daughter, Felicia, 13 years ago.

Two months before Felicia, who was born in jail, turned three, prison policy changed: children older than a year could no longer stay with their prisoner parent. Vanessa had to choose: send the little girl to relatives in SA or to a Bangkok orphanage.

Vanessa had little time to prepare her child for life far from the only place she’d known, the prison near Bangkok. ‘‘I didn’t have the words to explain to a three-year-old that she was to be taken away . . . that she had to go to a foreign country,’’ Vanessa recalls. ‘‘But somehow I found the courage. Every day for two months I told her what a wonderful place South Africa is.’’

Vanessa’s best friend, Melanie Holmes, and her husband, Hilton, would care for her.

After many appeals over the years Vanessa’s life sentence was progressively reduced. In May this year she finally heard she’d be released on 30 October – the day before Felicia’s 16th birthday.

She was brought home by German businessman Markus Gyssler, whom she met on the internet and who visited her several times in jail. They plan to marry next year and settle in Germany.

* Read the full interview in the 18 November issue of YOU.

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