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I stay strong for Schapelle

HUGS AND KISSES: Schapelle Corby and her mum Rosleigh Rose celebrate Mother's Day in 1999.
THIS is not a story of guilt or innocence, of wrongs and rights, or black or white. This is simply the story of one woman's fierce love for her child, a child who – however you view her circumstances – is in terrible trouble, a child who is far from home and who, most nights, wants nothing and no one more than her mother.

The mother is Rosleigh Rose; the child, her daughter Schapelle Corby; and the first sign of the extraordinary bond between them is in the bunches of yellow ribbons which continue to flutter defiantly on the letterbox outside Rosleigh's suburban home.

Much has been written about the Corby case, dinner parties have babbled across the country with "did she or didn't she?" debates, rumours have raged and through it all, Rosleigh has remained resolute.

"Those ribbons," she says firmly, "are not coming down until my daughter comes home."

For many, the lasting image of Rosleigh is the shrieking banshee-like figure who screamed at the judges when Schapelle's 20-year sentence was handed down on Friday, May 27, 2005 at the Denpasar District Court: "You took the word of a liar . . . these judges will never sleep" – a hysterical reaction that some said did her daughter no favours.

From her home in Logan on Brisbane's southern outskirts, Rosleigh offers no apologies for her outburst that day.

"I had just found out my daughter was going to be put in prison for 20 years. What did people expect me to do – thank them?"

Tough, direct, unpolished, imperfect, prone to speaking her mind and to hell with the consequences, there is another side to Rosleigh, rarely seen publicly, but overwhelmingly apparent the minute you enter her home.

Row upon row of pictures of her six children – Mercedes, Michael, Schapelle, Clinton, James and Neleane – fill the walls, jostling for space with still more photos placed on every available surface. Tables and bureaus are filled with gifts from her children, ceramic plates imprinted with messages of love, old Mother's Day cards addressed to "The World's Best Mum". Everywhere you look are reminders that long before she became a figure of notoriety, Rosleigh was first and foremost a mother.

"I can remember when Schapelle was born because I looked at her and she was perfect," Rosleigh says. "She was real round, she had these big eyes and this round, little face and pitch-black hair. She was such a good baby, slept through from very early on, no trouble."

Rosleigh took her daughter – "I called her Schapelle because there were Italians in the bed next to me at the hospital when I had my first daughter Mercedes, and I kept hearing them say this beautiful word and I told them, 'That is so lovely, that will be the name of my next daughter' – to the Logan home she shared with her then husband Michael and their children Mercedes and Michael.

"It was Housing Commission, so there were a lot of families and every kid in the neighbourhood was always at my house because I had the swings and the bikes and the cricket sets, and I didn't mind them being around.

"I'd say to the new mums, 'Go on, drop the baby off to me, have a couple of hours sleep' – people probably thought I was mad, but I loved it."

When Schapelle was a year old, Michael, an auto electrician and former miner, and Rosleigh broke up.

"After we split I met Clinton's dad, and he ended up being a not very nice fellow. So I walked out, quick smart, and then, a little while after that I met James's dad.

"He was also a really nice fellow too, but as soon as he had a bit of alcohol . . . I thought, 'No way mate, if I was going to put up with this, I would have stayed with Clinton's dad', so I left."

Now single, Rosleigh says she remains friends with all her children's fathers but is happy to be on her own.

"I don't need anybody, I can do everything I have to by myself.

"I can fix my car, I can change my own carburettor, I can mow the lawn and do the maintenance around the house (on the day we arrive, Rosleigh has just finished fixing a leaking toilet), I can do it all – but when Schapelle was here, she'd help me."

Growing up, Schapelle attended her local primary and high schools before leaving to work at Coles, spending some time with her father at Middlemount, southwest of Brisbane, and moving to the Gold Coast where she worked at a supermarket, bodysurfed at the beach and constantly checked on her mother's wellbeing.

"She was always worried that I was lonely without her. Even when she was a teenager and all her friends would be out, she'd say, 'Come on Mum, let's go shopping', and I'd say, 'No Schapelle, go and be with your friends', but she'd rather be with me."

In 1996, while living on the Gold Coast, Schapelle met the man she would marry, a Japanese surfboard maker known only as "Kimi", a marriage that has been described as "sudden" and "mysterious".

"There was nothing bloody mysterious about it," Rosleigh says.

"They met, they fell in love, they got married. I liked Kimi, we all did. But I didn't like Schapelle living in Japan because I'd worry all the time if she was all right."

Rosleigh says Schapelle's split from Kimi in 2000 was nothing more than "two young people falling out of love".

"But they're still friends, he still writes to her and sends her presents."

Leaving Japan, Schapelle asked her mother to meet her in Bali (where her eldest daughter Mercedes lives with her Indonesian husband and two children) for a mother-daughter reunion.

"We didn't stay in Kuta, we stayed at this real quiet little place. We just walked on the beach and talked about why her marriage had finished and all sorts of other things.

"One night she took me on a boat cruise, and she got me up dancing and while we were dancing she was saying to people, 'this is my beautiful mother and this is our trip and . . .' "

For the first time Rosleigh's veneer slips, her voice cracks and glassy tears well deep in her eyes.

"You see, that's what we're like – I can always cheer her up and she can always cheer me up. When she was living on the Coast she might get down in the dumps over something, so she'd ring me and say, 'Oh Mummy, Mummy, I'm in one of my moods, I can't get happy'.

"So I'd say, 'Come on, love, get yourself up, get dressed, make yourself beautiful and go out', or I'd ask her if she wanted me to come down.

Schapelle Corby Case Information

Source: Sunday Mail

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