The curse of the Corby clan
Schapelle Corby and her mother Rosleigh Rose say they are the victims of Federal Police malice. The family's continuing run-ins with the law aren't helping. Paul Toohey reports.

Up the skinny Kuta backstreets along Poppies Lane, awash with pirate DVD and sunglasses stores, “Osama Don’t Surf” T-shirts, pink jiggy-jig caps and near-empty bars, vendors haranguing the post-bombings straggler tourists with desperately good deals, promises of barely legal massage girls and under-the-breath offers of arrest-free marijuana and cocaine – “Boss, boss! You want drugs? No problem. Not Corby! Not Corby!” – comes Rosleigh Rose. She’s weary but still full of fight. Her daughter, 15-year-old Melenae Kisina, is in tow. Rose says yes, she’ll have a Bintang. It’s been quite a week.

Rose’s son, James Kisina, 18, who has the same Tongan-born father as Melenae, is currently somewhere between the Beenleigh police cells and Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre, outside Brisbane, after an alleged violent home invasion on January 17 in which Kisina and two of his mates are said to have menaced a couple with an iron bar and machete, and stolen cash and marijuana.

To make it worse, it has been reported that Queensland police are alleging in an affidavit that James – who flew to Bali with his sister, Schapelle, in October 2004, and was at her side when she was busted for importing marijuana – is “suspected of some involvement in the exportation of cannabis for which his sister has received a 20-year imprisonment sentence”. Where they dug up that angle, Rose cannot say. The police won’t, either.

Rose came to Bali knowing that the result of Corby’s final appeal, to Indonesia’s Supreme Court, was expected at any time. Schapelle had won a five-year sentence reduction on her original appeal and Rose had hoped, even believed, that her daughter would be set free. She really thought she’d be taking Schapelle home. Instead, the appeal, taken on by the narcissistic superstar Jakarta barrister-dealmaker Hotman Paris Hutapea, backfired, badly. Last week, Indonesia’s highest court reinstated Schapelle’s original 20-year sentence.

The new sentence was decided before Kisina’s arrest, and therefore did not affect the judges’ decision which was made on January 12 and revealed later. But it means more peripheral damage for Schapelle, whom Rose has that morning visited in Kerobokan Prison. “When I walked in she was with her lawyer,” says Rose. “She just stood up, we cuddled and cried, and I said, ‘C’mon, we have to be strong; we’re not finished yet’.”

The reinstated five years does not make a hell of a difference to Schapelle or to her mother, not at this stage anyway. “It doesn’t, not really,” says Rose. “We still have to just try to get her out.”

Another son, Clinton “Badger” Rose, is free after serving time in Arthur Gorrie for a long list of minor-major crimes. Now, James has taken his brother’s place. Rosleigh Rose begins to look like a mum with a lot of bad luck. Or, as people will now say, a matriarch overseeing a brood of petty hoodlums.

“I don’t care what they think,” Rose says. I put it to her that, actually, she does care. “No, I don’t.” Schapelle has been told about James’ arrest. “She wants to get it across to James that he had nothing to do with the 20 years. He’s a big boy and he probably thought, ‘I’m so useless, I couldn’t help my own sister’.”

James Kisina’s court-appointed lawyer told the press that James believed the people whose home he allegedly invaded, in a neighbouring suburb, had some connection with the drugs that went into Schapelle’s boogie board bag. He argued James was trying to seek revenge, or possibly clear the Schapelle matter up. That’s why he and his mates allegedly took some $1000 in cash, a reported kilogram of marijuana, a set of scales and menaced and assaulted the victims. What James and his mates did not know was that the house they allegedly hit was already under police surveillance. The cops just had to follow them back to Rosleigh’s home in Loganlea, south of Brisbane, to nab the three.

Picture courtesy of 60 Minutes

The Bulletin
met James at home in May last year. Handsome, just as his sister Melenae is pretty and, like her, a person of few words. Despite his classic islander tree-trunk prop-forward thighs and his round-the-house rugby clothes, he wasn’t too interested in playing. He’d left school early and wanted to make money landscaping. James talked of growing up in a troubled part of southern Brisbane, saying: “There’s heaps of trouble around this area. Armed robberies, heaps of druggos. Sit down at The Palms [the local shopping centre] and you’ll see. There’s always some drama going on. Whacked people everywhere.” The local cops told me they had never heard the name James Kisina in the context of any trouble. And that, they said, was pretty remarkable for a Loganlea kid.

The Corby curse? Rosleigh Rose won’t hear any such rubbish. She doesn’t go for any spooky stuff and is a strong believer that you’ve got to help yourself in this life. From the start of this whole thing, she says the federal government and the Australian Federal Police haven’t helped her. As for those who came in the guise of Schapelle’s saviours, they had other agendas. Like getting rich off Schapelle. Rose has stood by her kids, but only up to the point where she believes in their innocence. She believes in Schapelle.

How does she roll with it? “What are you supposed to do? At least I know where my bloody kids are, even if they are in jail. There’s kids out there with no legs. There’s people who don’t even know where their kids are. That’s what keeps me going. I know where Schapelle is. I know she will come home. I know she’s alive. I don’t like reading the papers that much, it’s full of so much sad stuff. But what about that little girl who lost her legs when that car went through the kindy? That little girl got two legs for Christmas.”

Rosleigh Rose weeps for that child and wipes her tears with a serviette. She reckons, all up, compared with that child, and all the other mundane everyday newspaper stories about hurt and mangled and stolen children, which she always tries not to read, her children are doing all right.

“I kind of liked Clinton being in jail because I knew where he was,” she says. “Before I’d worry about him, always expecting the phone call – he’d pinched a car and rolled off a cliff. But when he’d ring from jail, I’d be thinking, ‘All right, hope you get a couple of years there’.” It sounds a funny thing for a mum to say. “Yes, but every time a body was found down the coast, I’d always be thinking it was Clinton.”

The allegations against James will no doubt cause some to rethink the whole Schapelle-is-innocent line. Or for those who always suspected her guilt, his arrest will, for them, seal the matter. “He’s a nice, quiet kid,” says Rose of James. “I don’t know. I can remember the other month he seemed to be upset, getting tormented. People were yelling at him, ‘You black C’, and, ‘Your sister’s a drug dealer’.

“He said to me, ‘Mum, why do they say that?’ I said, ‘Don’t listen to them, they’re bored’. He doesn’t open up, James. I don’t know if his emotions have got on top of him. Last night, I just couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t believe it. He’s a kid who helps other kids out. He’s a boy who stops fights. He was school captain, voted in by the kids. The teachers and kids love him.”

As for Mele, she’s now seen three siblings go to the can. What does she think about the latest James situation? Mele shrugs and smiles. “He’s a big boy. He can look after himself.”

The Corby family story becomes incrementally more extraordinary. “We’re the Brady Bunch,” says Mele, perhaps aware of the irony. “Three girls and three boys. Or maybe we’re the Corby-Kisina-Rose Bunch,” she says, referring to the children by different fathers.

“It doesn’t matter,” says her mum. “At least you all know who your fathers are.”

Mick Keelty, recently reappointed Australian Federal Police commissioner, is not the Corby family’s favourite person just now. Nor is he much loved by the parents of the Bali Nine, many of whom are now in Bali waiting to hear what sentences the prosecution lawyers will ask for in their respective children’s heroin trafficking and conspiracy cases. On Monday, prosecutors called for the first, Scott Rush, to be sentenced to life in prison.

The parents of the four mules were further demoralised on Monday when a Federal Court judge refused an Australian-based application by Colin McDonald, QC, that would have required the AFP to hand over all documents relating to the AFP’s tip-off to Indonesian police on the drug-trafficking activities of the nine. While Justice Paul Finn said the federal government and the AFP needed to address protocols that allowed the AFP to expose Australian citizens to the death penalty, he was not going to force the AFP to give up its secrets.

The problem that Rosleigh and Schapelle’s Bali-based sister, Mercedes, have with Keelty has to do with his reported comments about photos which were said to depict Corby with a drug dealer.

The original story appeared in Melbourne’s Herald Sun on December 10. The journalist reported that police had seized photos of Corby with a man who had been charged with interstate marijuana smuggling. That man, later identified as Malcolm Christopher McCauley, 60, was charged in November 2005 over 15kg of cannabis said to be part of a South Australia-Queensland hydroponic marijuana smuggling operation. While searching McCauley’s belongings, police found the photos of McCauley with Corby.

The Herald Sun story said: “The photographs were taken before Corby was charged in October last year with importing 4.1kg of marijuana into Bali in her bodyboard bag.”

Rose couldn’t believe it. In fact, she didn’t believe it. She faxed the South Australian police commissioner, who responded that the photos “do not appear to have been taken in a prison setting”. Irate, Rose flew to Adelaide demanding to see the photos, threatening to kick and scream and embarrass the police unless they showed them to her. The state police would not show her, saying the photos were the property of McCauley and they couldn’t hand them out. But the SA police did hand over copies to the AFP.

Unfortunately for Schapelle, whose final appeal was then underway, the journalist had not sighted the photos before writing that story. The story was duly relayed around the nation, and on to Indonesia. No one in either the SA state police or the AFP seemed to realise that Kerobokan’s visiting area is full of desert rose plants, white tiles, white walls and does not look anything like a prison. Anyone who had seen the inside of Kerobokan would have instantly recognised that they depicted McCauley and Schapelle inside the prison’s visiting area.

It turned out that McCauley had been to Bali and sat through some of her trial. He, like many others, found her trial a more compelling tourist attraction than the monkey forest. McCauley and one of his mates approached Rose, told her they believed in her daughter’s innocence and asked if they could meet Schapelle. A prison visit was duly arranged, as Rose had done for others.

The Herald Sun story was wrong, but before that newspaper corrected itself nine days later, Keelty made two comments which the Corby family believes damaged Schapelle’s appeal to the Indonesian Supreme Court. They were:

“The thing we have to look at is whether there is a network exporting cannabis to Bali. And, um, whether that’s got anything to do with Schapelle Corby or not remains to be seen”; and

“If any evidence existed about Schapelle Corby, there was always a risk that it would come to light eventually.”

The comments were typically ambiguous, to be turned upside down and read in different ways. Yet the Corbys saw Keelty’s remarks only one way: that the AFP does not put the interests of Australian citizens first. On that point, Rosleigh Rose and Mercedes Corby are in strong agreement with the parents of the Bali Nine, who are filthy at the AFP for tipping off the Indonesian police about their children’s drug--trafficking activities.

The Corby family wants to know whether Keelty or one of his operatives leaked news of the photos to the Herald Sun. Keelty has reportedly denied doing so, and SA police (who are unlikely to leak to a Victorian newspaper) have strongly insisted to the Corby family that they did not leak.

Certainly, Keelty and SA police never made it clear once the truth was known, for the record, that the photos were taken in Kerobokan. It was left to hang. And Rose thinks that the destructive innuendo, to be taken along with the Michelle Leslie two-pill ecstasy charges and published but unsubstantiated allegations of attempts by her “team” to bribe Balinese judges, deeply damaged Schapelle in the eyes of her Supreme Court final appeal judges.

“There’s too much shit,” Rose says. “This Michelle – I’ve got nothing against her, believe me, she’s done her time – but it’s all come at the wrong time, this stuff about money and bribes. They kind of thought, we’ll make an example of Schapelle again.”

We’ll never know if the Indonesian Supreme Court did take the photos into account when it reinstated her original sentence. Logic suggests Indonesia’s chronically overburdened 30-plus Supreme Court judges – who at this point are dealing with a 20,000 appeal-case backlog – were not influenced by the press when they made their decision. The judges shuffle cases fast. They probably thought: everyone else caught with such an amount of dope gets a life sentence, if not death. Corby should be no different. Back to 20. Case closed.

While there has been talk of a prisoner transfer, Corby says she has not been approached by Australian consular staff with any offers. Asked if the offer came tomorrow, whether Schapelle would want to come home, Rose says: “Right now, we’d say no. But if it came to the crunch we might say, yes. I just don’t think she should be transferred from one jail to another when she’s innocent.” For all that is said about “notorious” Kerobokan, the jail has a fairly relaxed atmosphere. The real issue is hygiene, whereas in Australia’s tough jails, the issue is survival.

“I suppose, in Australia, there’s a rigmarole that’s involved in visiting someone in jail. You can only go once a week, you can’t take anything to them, they can’t have anything, and for the girls, how many big butch sheilas are there?”

So what about this Queensland police affidavit suggesting James Kisina is linked to his sister’s case? What about the lack of support from the AFP? What about this Mal McCauley?

“It might seem like we’re paranoid,” says Mercedes Corby, “but this is like a conspiracy.”

In the moments after Schapelle Corby was arrested, in October 2004, the Corby family, via Mercedes, who was in Bali, had a brief window to bribe their way out. Indonesian Customs officers handed over phone numbers. It was hinted, according to Rosleigh, that something could be worked out.

“But Mercedes and Schapelle said no, it’s not hers,” says Rosleigh Rose. Does she have regrets they didn’t take that opportunity? “Now, we probably do. But, if we did that then, it would happen again to someone else. And our airports would be no better. We will not do it. If Schapelle and Mercedes paid, all of this would never have come out about our airports.”

As Rose likes to remark, the day she said goodbye to her kids at Brisbane airport in October 2004, she could have been dropping off a carload of bomb-laden terrorists and no one would have ever known – the security cameras weren’t rolling. Then Schapelle took a flight to Bali via Sydney, during which there were 12 hours when her boogie board was not in her hands.

Rose claims everything was rotten from the start. The family’s initial legal contact in Bali was with Vasu Rasiah, whom they thought was a lawyer but turned out to be a businessman. He introduced them to Gold Coast lawyer Robin Tampoe, and to mini-mobile-phone magnate Ron Bakir. This little team told the Corbys and Australia they just wanted to help Schapelle, and would do it free.

“They were always pestering Schapelle into writing a book,” says Rose. “We said, ‘No, we just want Schapelle home.’ They were trying to sign us up for everything. This is Tampoe and Bakir. They’d be ringing. Tampoe said, ‘We have to get a book out, then it will go into a movie. I said, ‘I just want my daughter home.’ He said, ‘I’ve already been to publishers saying, how much?’ It was terrible. I’d just hang up on him.”

Rose now reveals the group’s main angle, apart from books and movie rights, was to sue Qantas for allowing her baggage to be tampered with. Qantas, with all that money, became their primary focus. Legally, it was a rubbish angle. And Rose was furious they did not seem to be focusing on getting Schapelle out. As The Bulletin revealed last year, in a story which caused Bakir and friends to break from the Corbys, they’d been telling Schapelle she owed them hundreds of thousands for the work they’d done – work Schapelle and the Corbys had thought was voluntary.

“It was all about books and suing Qantas,” says Rose.

There’s a James Woods film, True Believer, showing on cable TV in Bali. In it, Woods, playing a lawyer, is desperate to make a name for himself. He wants to get a convicted immigrant gangland Korean murderer out of jail. But early investigation of his client’s case does not bode well. It looks like the nasty Korean did it after all. Woods says something like: “The guiltier they look, the more they need us.”

Same for the Corbys. Rosleigh needs to meet someone who’s not a carpetbagger or a prancing self-obsessed lawyer. You wouldn’t think that would be so hard. It is.

It has previously been reported that Schapelle Corby, a cleanliness freak whose family have nicknamed her “Grub” or “Hitler”, uses Domestos to clean her prison cell. For the record, she has switched brands. She uses Snow White.

  • Schapelle Corby Homepage

    Just in case you forgot - read the Universal declaration of Human Rights
    Copyright - An important message to website owners:
    All information at this site is Copyright 1996 - 2005 'Save-A-Life' & 'Foreign Prisoner Support Service' unless stated otherwise. As with all our information AND more specifically, information relating to CAMPAIGNS AND/OR PRISONERS we have been granted special permission to disclose this type of information by the families and/or by the detainee themselves. Therefore, if you wish to use any of this information to re-create in your own website or elsewhere, please contact us - save breach of copyright. News stories are reprinted for archival, news reporting and information use only and are credit where possible.
    Click here for the legal stuff