AUSTRALIAN woman Sara Connor made an emotional address to the Denpasar District court in final hearings this week before judges deliver a verdict mid-March about her involvement in the death of a Bali police officer.
Reporters said Connor appeared dejected at the hearings telling them, “No, I’m not feeling optimistic at all. I’m expecting the worst, really. I’ve lost all the hopes to see my children grow up.”
Last week, prosecutors asked that Connor be given the same eight-year sentence for manslaughter as her British boyfriend David Taylor, who has admitted to hitting Wayan Sudarsa with a beer bottle during an altercation on Kuta beach in August last year.
While Taylor admitted to bashing the officer, who was later found dead, he and Connor have both denied she was involved. However, prosecutors said while it was not a murder case, she should be charged with fatal assault in company and was equally culpable as Taylor. They also criticised her for being evasive, for not admitting her role in the killing and for destroying the policeman’s cards because she had a guilty conscience.
Sky News said Connor’s defence team called the prosecution reckless and conviction would be a dangerous precedent. As part of their final submission to the court, they presented a book of 78 testimonials from Connor’s friends, colleagues and family.
Sydney Morning Herald provided excerpts of these, many of which described her work at the Arts Factory backpackers lodge in Byron Bay.
“In the three years I have spent in Australia, no-one has helped me like Sara did,” wrote Cyprien Clerc, a native of France, in one of the testimonials.
“She is my second mum, my big sister. And she is this way not just with me but with many people.”
Cover of Sara Connor's book of glowing character references presented to court in Bali pic.twitter.com/dfe5j6ILWN
— Adam Harvey (@adharves) February 28, 2017
Another Australia website Kidspot provided images of Connor weeping as she gave her final statements to the Denpasar District Court. The report quoted Connor as saying:
“I deeply regret and apologise for any mistake made, unknowingly, and unintentionally by me but none of my actions cause the death of the victim. I feel terribly sorry for all the pain that this situation has created.
“I take responsibility for my actions. If this is what God has planned for my life, to punish me so harshly and deprive my children of their mother, I hope he will give my children the strength to cope.”
She also reportedly explained she went to the Australian consulate and not the police because “that is what people do when they are in a foreign country”.
According to SkyNews, Connor also said:
“I could have fled at any stage with my Italian passport that has a different surname.
“I let David burn the clothes (they wore on the night of Mr Sudarsa’s death) because I was confused and in shock and I apologise for that. Please bear in mind that I’m in another country … I was scared about what would happen.”
Connor has two boys aged nine and 11. The three judges handing down the sentence can do whatever they want, and even convict Connor and Taylor for up to 15 years, but it is also true that the prosecutions’ demands do carry weight.
While the Byron Bay community has been supportive of Connor, other Australian support on social media has been mixed:
8yr request's not grossly unfair for #SaraConnor – they left a man to die & destroyed his belongings to protect themselves. Must be penalty.
— Lyndal (@LyndaHalbert) February 22, 2017
#saraconnor I am disgusted that she is annoyed by the prospect of doing 8 years gaol. If it was her who died, she'd expect killer to do life
— Robert Thomas (@VigilantRobert) February 28, 2017
Facebook users had plenty to say as well about Connor’s case. On the pages of local publications, they wrote the following:
Casey Charlesworth: “She didn’t beat up the officer she caused him no physical harm and therefore did not cause his death. I think in the heat of the moment most people would flee and probably suspect the person was knocked out. Everyone is so harsh but she’s still not the one who beat the crap out of the officer. Demanding the same jail time is completely unfair. Not saying what she did was ok but she didn’t cause this man’s death…”
Ross Gordon: “Don’t worry Australia, Sara Connor will be out in a handful of years and then she can publish a book, get a front page exposé on every newspaper, get interviews with Ch7, 9, 10, interviews with every trashy commercial radio station, pitch a miniseries to ABC and then retire comfortably and quietly on the royalties.”
Mary Wallace: “I can’t believe the comments wondering if the policeman was corrupt. This man was stabbed 40 times with a glass bottle. He had a family, what is wrong with people, no one deserves to die like that. If a policeman was killed like that in Australia, the murderers would not have our sympathy. Do you think that she can’t be guilty because she is Australian. Don’t be naive, there are murders committed in Australia by Australians all the time. Nothing to stop them going on holidays.”
Matthew Cowan: “Guilty or not everyone deserves the right to a factual and fair trial. They won’t get that in Indonesia. Their fate has already been decided outside of the court.”
Pru Jones: “This is not Australia! It’s a foreign country! To compare anything that is going on there to how things operate in OZ is a recipe for anger and frustration. If you think corruption does not happen in Oz you are naive! The Indonesian judicial system is different, just deal with it! The man is dead! This is a serious crime no matter which country you are in. These people were involved! To what extent we don’t know yet! Speculation is unhelpful.””
On Wednesday, in his final plea to the court, Taylor expressed “deepest sadness” over the police officer’s death.
The West Australian said Taylor, 34, appeared calm when he apologised to Sudarsa’s family, saying:
“It fills me with the deepest sadness I have ever felt to be a part of the loss of a human life.
“It has never ever been my intention to cause harm to anybody. I was unfortunate enough to find myself in a terrible situation where eventually I was forced to protect my own life.”
Sentencing for Taylor will be on March 13.