Schapelle Corby supporters hit back at ABC 7:30 Report aired 30 January 2006
Last night on the "7:30 Report", you aired a scurrilous story insinuating that Schapelle Corby might be in some way guilty of smuggling marijuana into Bali by virtue of someone whom her father had lived next door to some time ago.

The "7:30 Report" knows these facts would not be admissible in a court of law and Michael Corby has not been charged nor even questioned in respect of any offence. The implication of Schapelle's guilt by such a remote association is laughable except that, in continuing the now popular trend of making more ridiculous accusations against the Corby family, some of the mud will no doubt stick. The report also contained a serious factual error in suggesting that Schapelle Corby had objected to the marijuana found in her possession being tested. In fact, it was the Indonesian authorities who refused to allow it to be tested.

Furthermore, you made these allegations in the knowledge that Schapelle Corby has no legal representation in Australia or organized support base to deny these allegations. Her family has the unenviable prospect of having to support Schapelle physically and mentally through the torturous hellhole of a Balinese prison for the next 19 years for a crime she did not admit. I fail to see how the "7:30 Report" is justified morally or on any other grounds in further attacking her family in respect of the hell they must now be going through.

Canberra, Australia

The program undid everything with it's own comment: The relationship between Michael Corby and his neighbour is not evidence he or anyone else in the family are involved with illicit drugs. However, this series of events does suggest that further investigation into any possible association could be worthwhile. Why not present the program when a full investigation has been done?

Len Heggarty Australia

Read the Transcript of the 7:30 Report Story Below

Corby's next-door neighbour faces drug charges
Broadcast: 30/01/2006 - Reporter: John Stewart and Renata Gombac

KERRY O'BRIEN: Welcome to the program. And it's good to be back for 2006. First up - the Corbys. It's been a dramatic few weeks for the Corby family. First came the news that Schapelle Corby would have to serve the full 20-year sentence imposed last year in Bali after she was convicted for drug trafficking. To make matters worse, her half-brother was recently arrested in Queensland on drugs charges. Despite all this, the Corby family has always maintained it has no association with anyone linked to the drug trade. Tonight, we explore the relationship between Schapelle Corby's father, Michael Corby, and the friend who was his next-door neighbour over years in two different Queensland locations. This man was arrested and charged with running a sophisticated, commercial marijuana operation just one month before Schapelle Corby's fateful trip to Bali. The relationship between the two men is not in itself evidence that the Corby family has any involvement in the drug trade, but it does raise questions which may warrant further investigation. This report from John Stewart and Renata Gombac of the ABC's investigative unit.

SHAPELLE CORBY: Absolutely, I didn't put it there. That's the bottom line. I didn't put it there.

JOHN STEWART: The denials have been firm, emphatic and unyielding. Even now as the legal options run dry, Schapelle Corby chooses not to pursue a presidential pardon because it would mean conceding guilt in her drugs case.

JODY POWER, FAMILY FRIEND: I have never, ever seen her smoke marijuana. I've never seen her take drugs, ever.

JOHN STEWART: All along the way, the line from friends and family has also been consistent - the hydroponic marijuana seized in her boogie board bag was not hers.

REPORTER: Could Schapelle be guilty?

MICHAEL CORBY, FATHER: Of course not. She had nothing to do with bloody drugs. Oh, she might have bloody had a puff when she was in bloody Grade 10, or something, round the back of the school yard like kids do, I don't know. She's had nothing to do with it since, or any time as far as I know. She's against it, anti-drugs. Anyway I've seen the bloody bag, there was nothing in it. She had no - she was just going over there - she's not guilty. No way.

JOHN STEWART: To accept those persistent denials is to buy into mystery. If the drugs aren't Corby's, whose are they and where did the drugs come from? Perhaps we'll never know, but tonight we can present evidence of a close association between a member of the Corby family and a man accused of running a marijuana operation of significant scale. An operation police will contend parcels hydroponic marijuana in vacuum-sealed bags by the kilo and that was busted just a month before Schapelle Corby's fateful flight to Bali.

MICHAEL CORBY: I have no reason to tell lies, love. I'm telling you what I feel, what I saw and what I know. She didn't have the bloody things. They turned up over there somewhere between Brisbane Airport and Bali. Somewhere, I couldn't tell you where, which part, which joint, but they're there and she's in all the trouble because they're bloody there and she didn't have them when she left home.

JOHN STEWART: This little dirt road is like many others branching off the Bruce Highway in Central Queensland. It's a road rarely used by trucks and tourists, moving up and down the vast Queensland coast. Graziers like Victor Ferris enjoy the quiet life and living in a close-knit community. But in September 2004, local farmers were surprised to see armed police officers turn off the Bruce Highway and raid this farm following a tip-off from an informant. They travelled this gate to the rear of the property and allegedly found a sophisticated and well-established hydroponic cannabis-growing operation. They also allegedly found 5kg of high-quality marijuana in vacuum-sealed plastic bags, along with thousands of dollars in cash hidden throughout the property. The owner, a man in his 50s who for legal reasons we'll refer to as 'Tony', was arrested and charged with producing and supplying a commercial amount of illicit drugs. A source close to the investigation has told us that the 5kg of marijuana found on the property was left over from a bigger stash of 35kg, which had allegedly been sold up around North Queensland. The drug bust took place just one month before Schapelle Corby left Brisbane Airport for Bali and the Corby name was yet to hit the media headlines. The police did not notice who owned and property next door, a man named Michael Corby - Schapelle Corby's father. Victor Ferris knows him as Mick.

VICTOR FERRIS, NEIGHBOUR: This is Mick's place now.

JOHN STEWART: That's Michael Corby's property?


JOHN STEWART: Documents obtained by ABC's investigative unit show that Michael Corby purchased the Central Queensland property in 1998, two years after his accused neighbour bought his farm in 1996.

VICTOR FERRIS: Run about five head of cattle.

JOHN STEWART: Victor Ferris has lived in this Central Queensland town for 67 years. He owns a property next door to the accused and just 100m from Michael Corby's place. He says that Michael Corby and his neighbour spent a lot of time together and that Mr Corby allowed the man to graze cattle on his property. How many cattle was Tony running on Michael's property, Michael Corby's property? Did you say 25?

VICTOR FERRIS: About 25 for a while, but they were always getting out so he's probably got less now.

JOHN STEWART: Would you be surprised to hear that Tony got arrested for growing a hydroponic marijuana set up?

VICTOR FERRIS: No, that doesn't surprise me. It was just news to me, it was news to me, but it doesn't surprise me.

JOHN STEWART: It's not the first time the two men have been neighbours. The 1995 Queensland electoral roll shows that before they moved to these adjoining farms, both men lived next door to each other in these two houses in the mining town of Middlemount in Central Queensland. Miner and local resident Michael Stothard recalls both men living directly opposite him.

MICHAEL STOTHARD, MINER: Tony lived right next door. Mick lived in 14 and Tony lived in 16.

JOHN STEWART: Local residents say the two men lived next door to each other for several years and both worked at the German Creek Mine. Michael Corby worked in the machinery workshop while his neighbour was employed as a tyre changer.

MICHAEL STOTHARD: Tony and Mick associated with each other all the time. They lived next door to each other and worked at the open cut together, so yes, they were pretty friendly.

JOHN STEWART: Middlemount residents say that Schapelle Corby also lived here with her father as a teenager. Did you ever meet Schapelle?

PETER McCARTHY, TRUCK DRIVER: Yes, yes, I knew her when she was little and I met her years later when she came back to Middlemount. Schapelle lived here for six months with Mick for, yes, that period of time, yes.

JOHN STEWART: Both men left Middlemount late in the 1990s and moved to this isolated area.

MICHAEL STOTHARD: And they left about the same time together because they both worked at the open cut and they sort of left about roughly the same time. I'm not sure who went first.

JOHN STEWART: A check of land titles shows that Michael Corby bought his property in 1998, two years after his neighbour moved to the area in 1996. In other words, Schapelle Corby's father followed his neighbour 500km south. Nearby residents say that Michael Corby lived here for two years before moving to the Gold Coast in the year 2000, opting to be closer to his family while he underwent treatment for cancer. The police raid on his neighbour's property took place four years later in 2004. When the bust happened here, the police didn't know who owned the property next door and the Corby name was never associated with this event. Never passed on to the Australian Federal Police.

REPORTER: They're not your drugs?

SHAPELLE CORBY: They're not my drugs. Didn't put them there.

REPORTER: They're none of your family's drugs? They're not your brother's drugs, your friend's?


JOHN STEWART: Is there anybody in your family, either a step-father, a distant relative, is there anyone who's ever been convicted or involved in the drugs trade?

CORBY RELATIVE: No, not that I know of. No, there wouldn't be.

MICHAEL CORBY: I've seen the bloody bag, there was nothing in it. She had no - she was just going over there. She's not guilty, no way.

JOHN STEWART: Forensic scientists have not yet tested the cannabis found inside Schapelle Corby's boogie board bag, saying it could not be done without a comparative sample. The origins of the drugs remain a mystery.

SIMON GILMORE, FORENSIC RESEARCHER: There are a couple of conditions that would have to be met. As I mentioned before you need a comparison sample. You may have a sample from the cannabis that was seized in Bali, and then if you suspected it came from a particular individual, if they had some cannabis in their possession, you would be able to do a DNA comparison of that cannabis with the cannabis seized in Bali.

JOHN STEWART: Simon Gilmore is a forensic researcher who has been working with the Australian Federal Police on cannabis DNA identification.

SIMON GILMORE: There's been research into DNA profiling of cannabis since probably the early 1990s. The Australian National University and the Australian Federal Police have been involved in it and there's a number of overseas groups that have been involved, as well.

JOHN STEWART: Sources close to the AFP who have viewed photographs of the cannabis found inside Schapelle Corby's boogie board bag support the view it's most likely to be hydroponically grown.

SIMON GILMORE: Now in some cases the DNA may match exactly. Much of the cannabis produced commercially is done using hydroponic systems and with those hydroponic systems what the growers often do is use a single or just a few plants and then take cuttings from those plants, which are, if you like, genetically identical to the mother plant. In those cases, the two plants that are grown together would have exactly the same DNA profile.

JOHN STEWART: But a DNA comparison is unlikely to happen. The Australian Federal Police have told the ABC's investigative unit that when the AFP offered to forensically test Schapelle Corby's boogie board bag and its contents, her lawyers rejected the offer. When the Australian Federal Police explained to Schapelle Corby's lawyers that any result from the testing for fingerprints inside the bag or DNA testing of the marijuana would also be passed onto the Indonesian police, her lawyers declined the offer to carry out the tests. We approached the AFP to ask if they were investigating the relationship between Michael Corby and the neighbour accused of cultivating a substantial amount of cannabis, and whether this had any connection to Schapelle Corby's case. The AFP declined to comment saying, it's a matter for the Queensland State police. Late today, the Queensland Police said: "Unfortunately, it's not possible to provide information on individuals without appropriate lawful reason. There was no other person connected with the charges which are subject to the upcoming court matters. As these matters are before the court, it is not appropriate to comment further."

The relationship between Michael Corby and his neighbour is not evidence he or anyone else in the family are involved with illicit drugs. However, this series of events does suggest that further investigation into any possible association could be worthwhile.

KERRY O'BRIEN: We've spent the past four days trying to contact Michael Corby, who we understand is in Bali at the moment. Despite repeated calls to his Indonesian lawyer and other members of the Corby family, we've been unable to get a response to the facts of tonight's story. That report from John Stewart and Renata Gombac of the ABC's investigative unit.

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