Bali Nine Andrew Chan’s ‘Secret First Wife’ Says He Had A Chance To Escape Prison But He Didn’t Take It

By @chelean on
Michael Chan (C), brother of Australian death row prisoner Andrew Chan, leaves with Febyanti Herewila (L)
IN PHOTO: Michael Chan (C), brother of Australian death row prisoner Andrew Chan, leaves with Febyanti Herewila (L) after visiting his brother in Kerobokan Prison in Denpasar, on the Indonesian island of Bali February 27, 2015. Australia has been pursuing an eleventh-hour campaign to save the lives of Andrew Chan, 31, and Myuran Sukumaran, 33, two members of the so-called Bali Nine group of Australians, convicted in 2005 as the ringleaders of a plot to smuggle heroin out of Indonesia. REUTERS/Beawiharta

As Andrew Chan’s widow Febyanti Herewila escorted his body back to Australia after 10 long years, his secret first “wife” has come out to inform the world of the 31-year-old Bali Nine ringleader’s selflessness. Australian Leonie Smyth revealed that Chan had a chance to escape the Kerobokan prison in 2012, but he opted to remain behind bars.

Smyth has never seen Chan in person, but they dated for four years and even had a symbolic wedding ceremony on the phone. Chan also played a big role on her son Josh’s upbringing. Their relationship remained a secret, however, since Chan couldn’t tell anyone he had been communicating with her through a mobile phone that he kept concealed in his cell.

Chan’s Symbolic Marriage With His First Wife

In an exclusive interview with the Telegraph, Smyth recounted how she met Chan through her family friends who had travelled to Indonesia’s Kerobokan prison to meet with Schapelle Corby, another Australia who was jailed in the Asian country for drug offence. They met Chan during their visit to the same prison. Her friends thought that Chan would be a good friend to Smyth, who also had a history with drug use. He was just a friend and a pastor at first, but their relationship got closer, and both realised that they were in love.

Corby, 37, was arrested in 2004 in Bali and convicted the following year of smuggling drugs. She was released in February 2014 on parole. She is still in Indonesia and is not allowed to leave the country until her sentence expires in July 2017.

They never met in person, but Smyth said she spent more time with Chan than “most normal couples.” They have had dinner dates, with Chan telling Smyth what to cook for dinner in her home and organising the same food to be brought into prison. They would then eat together while they were on Skype.

The two got engaged in 2012 and had a symbolic union ceremony through the phone. They even planned their future together. She was supposed to move to Bali in September 2013 to spend three months with him before they would announce they were getting officially married.

“We were married as far as we were concerned,” Smyth told the publication about her non-official marriage with the now-deceased inmate. She showed her ring, a symbol of their marriage which Chan sent to her, and his letters, which he signed: “Your loving husband, Andrew.”

Chan also became a father figure to her son Josh, who is now 13 years old. “He was the strength in our family and Josh loved him,” Smyth said. In return, Chan showed his love for the mother and son by having their names tattooed on his forearm.

Their ‘Divorce’ And Chan’s Subsequent Re-Marriage

Deep down, however, Smyth knew there would be no future for them. Although Chan’s execution didn’t seem to be real at that time and they thought he and fellow Bali Nine ringleader Myuran Sukumaran would be freed and allowed to return to Australia, the stress of having a “husband” on death row was still a persistent pressure on her emotions. She broke up with him, and it wasn’t an amicable separation.

“The breakup wasn’t pretty — I made some mistakes and said some terrible things — but thankfully we made our peace before he died. He forgave me for what I’d said, I’m so grateful for that. I couldn’t have lived with myself otherwise.”

On the eve of his execution on April 29, Chan married Herewila. Smyth was glad that he had someone with him during his last days. “My biggest fear was he would die lonely so I’m so happy he had Feby,” Smyth said, adding that she knew Herewila, whom she was close to for two years, had always liked him.

Herewila has landed in Australia with Chan’s lifeless body on Saturday. She and his family are now arranging for his funeral.

A Chance At Freedom

Chan perhaps would have been alive today had he just taken advantage of an opportunity in 2012. Smyth narrated why Chan decided against going for his freedom when a riot broke out in Kerobokan prison in February. When rebelling prisoners had successfully taken hold of the prison, the staff had abandoned the facility. That gave the prisoners chance to escape. Chan’s cell was unlocked, and he only had to step out to obtain his freedom.

However, he knew that the punishment for foreigners who would be left behind would be severe, and so he opted not to take advantage of the situation. “He had a few chances to escape, but he didn’t want to make life harder on remaining foreigners,” Smyth said of her beloved’s sacrifice for others.


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