DRUG runners come in all shapes and sizes but this mule was unusual to say the least. Brenda Joyce Eastwood was a 51-year-old grandmother of three, born in Port Augusta, who had been raised single-handedly by her mother after her father was jailed when she was two.
She dropped out of school in year 10 and gained work as a sewing machinist, then as a shop assistant. She married at 18 and, less than a year later, gave birth to the first of four children. In public, Eastwood tried to maintain the impression that she lived a happy existence but behind closed doors it was a different story. Her husband was a chronic alcoholic who abused her physically and mentally. Like many women, she endured years of domestic torture and punishment for the sake of her kids. Then finally, in 1985, she could face no more and broke free.
Eastwood remarried 10 years later, after a chance meeting in a pub. His name was Richard and he dressed like a country singer. They shared a passion for jive dancing and he swept her off her feet. But, as time progressed, he suffered health problems and she was forced to become the sole breadwinner in the household. Her cause wasn't helped by the fact that she had developed an addiction to the pokies. By 2002, she was deep in debt.
The drug dealer Malcolm McCauley met Eastwood through a neighbour. For some time, he quietly monitored her money worries. ''Once Ken [a previous driver] had left, I was on the lookout for a decent courier and Brenda was an attractive proposition in that regard,'' he says. ''She didn't fit your usual mould - she didn't smoke the hooter; she was tall, with short blonde curly hair and a reasonably good figure.
''How many of them do you find transporting car loads of hooter? Not many, I can tell ya.''
The temptation of a fast buck was too much for Eastwood to resist and by the end of 2003 McCauley had accompanied her on her first two runs to Queensland. In the coming months, she would make his Gold Coast and Charters Towers runs her own. ''Apart from jive dancing and the pokies, Brenda's true passion in life was driving,'' McCauley says. ''She loved it. Once she was on that highway, she was like a bird set free.''
Eastwood's vehicle had received the once-over and the marijuana had been sourced well ahead of schedule but there remained one outstanding issue - McCauley was all out of suitcases.
He headed into town and found two matching vintage numbers in a second-hand store. Once that chore was over, he returned home to prepare everything for Eastwood's departure. It was a painstaking process but he'd done it so many times he could finish the job with his eyes closed: ''I always started in the kitchen. The hooter would be spread across the table. I'd grab a bag and throw in what I thought was a pound or thereabouts. I then weighed it on the scales. A few buds in, a few buds out, until I'd got it exactly spot on. I then tied the bag off and slipped it into a heat seal that would suck all the air out. Occasionally, you'd find a sharp stem or twig had punctured through one of the bags. If that happened, I'd have to push the stem back down, then place that bag into another bag and seal it again.''
At that point, one might have expected McCauley's job to be finished but he wasn't even halfway there. Next, it was into the bathroom for stage two: ''I'd throw all the sealed bags into the bath. Then I sprayed them with household air freshener - whatever might be lying around in the cupboard at the time. They were then wiped down individually, so any lingering smell on the outside of the bag was well and truly removed. Fingerprints too. At that point, I'd place them in the suitcase. It was always 10 pounds to a case. By the time I'd finished, it looked the part. And that was my work done. Away you go! The next person to touch the bags was always the recipient. Hopefully never the cops.''
On this occasion Eastwood had agreed to do a double run, involving drop-offs to Mick Corby on the Gold Coast and another regular contact, Wayne Williams at Charters Towers in northern Queensland. From a financial perspective, it made perfect sense for McCauley to complete two deals in the one journey. He might have to throw the driver an extra $500 but, in turn, he could halve his fuel costs and all other general travel expenses, including accommodation. The problem was that he'd never met a courier with the bottle, stamina or desire to complete such mammoth runs - until Granny Eastwood came along. ''I don't know how she would do it,'' he says. ''She could do the Gold Coast, Charters Towers and back to Adelaide, and exist on the occasional half-hour's sleep by the side of the road. Her fee always included money for a motel but if she'd had a bad week on the pokies, I'm sure she probably pocketed it.''
On leaving Adelaide, Granny Eastwood generally liked to take the Barrier Highway, which would take her through outback towns like Broken Hill, Wilcannia and Cobar in NSW, then across into Queensland and on to the Warrego Highway, a fully sealed stretch of highway taking her through to Charleville and across to Roma. She could then easily continue east, if she was heading to the Gold Coast, or north if she had to complete the extra kilometres up to Charters Towers. Either way, it was a gruelling drive. She had hit a kangaroo on one journey and blown a tyre on another. ''Nothing seemed to faze her,'' McCauley says.
On this journey, both deliveries contained 10 pounds of marijuana. She would be expected to return with $60,000 for the pair of suitcases and there was no reason to believe she wouldn't. So, shortly before lunchtime on October 6, 2004, McCauley directed Eastwood out of his driveway, then waved her goodbye. He watched her head down the road and disappear out of view. ''That's taken care of,'' McCauley thought as he headed back indoors and straight to the fridge for a beer. ''She's as good as there.''Asleep at the wheel
Eastwood's brief had been to head straight to the Gold Coast and drop Mick's marijuana off by early afternoon the following day. She was then expected to call McCauley and let him know the first leg of the journey had passed without incident. McCauley did receive a phone call the following day - but not from Eastwood. It was from Mick Corby, and he was beside himself. McCauley remembers: ''He rings up and he's screaming: 'What the f--- is going on? Where's your f---ing taxi driver?! I've got to f---ing do this, and this is now f---ed up because of that.' I said: 'Whoooa! Calm down, Mick! What's happened?'''
McCauley's job description had always been to source the best grass, pack it in the exact same way he always had and then transport it to Mick, or to Wayne, or whoever had ordered a shipment, by a certain specified time. If Mick needed the marijuana for a flight to somewhere, then there was a very strict turnaround time. The deadline was in place because the product always needed to be repackaged at Mick's end and properly prepared before departure. What Mick did with the marijuana had never really been McCauley's concern. He knew about Bali but he didn't care. And why would he? As long as the grass was top quality and it arrived on time, he'd fulfilled his part of the bargain. ''On this particular day, it became my concern because my courier hadn't arrived on time,'' he says.
When McCauley finally managed to get a word in with Mick, he tried to reassure him that Eastwood could only be a matter of minutes away: ''You know she's never late, bro' - I'm sure she's not too far. Let me put a call in. Stay put, have a beer and I'll get straight back to you.''
''Make it f---ing quick!'' yelled Mick before hanging up.
The moment the line went dead, McCauley dialled Eastwood's number several times. It rang out on each occasion. ''I couldn't bloody raise her,'' he says, adding: ''I tried and tried, but nothing. I thought, 'Where the f--- is she?' Because it had never happened before, I had to consider the possibility that maybe there'd been an accident. Or, worse still, she'd been nabbed by the cops.''
McCauley's heart sank when he considered that particular scenario. He wanted to keep calling, but then again, maybe it was best not to. If the cops had caught Eastwood, then they no doubt had her phone too. A barrage of missed calls was the last thing he needed the police to see.
When Mick Corby got back in touch, he was even more irate than before. ''He was banging on about the time. He was saying: 'It's [the hooter] got to leave here at this time today because it's flying out from Brisbane in the morning. You've f---ed up everything.'''
McCauley had to be honest: ''Can't raise her, Mick. It's a mystery. She'll be coming round the mountain when she comes. Let's try and remain patient, for everyone's sake, eh?'' McCauley didn't need to raise the possibility that the police might have intercepted Eastwood because he knew Mick had already contemplated it. ''It went on and on. I paced around the house and sank a few coldies. It was the longest wait.''
It would later transpire that Eastwood had not been arrested, nor had she been involved in a car accident. She had in fact pulled over somewhere on the highway for a nap and then, somehow, passed out for most of the afternoon. ''When I got hold of her, several hours later, she was like, 'I missed a couple of calls. Sorry, must have gone to sleep for a while.'''
When asked how far Eastwood was from Corby's house at that particular point, McCauley replies: ''To be honest, I can't remember. But I wasn't really interested - it was a massive f----up. When a guy says this day at this time, he means he wants it there and then - bang.
''Did I read her the riot act? Absolutely. Did I stay mad with her forever? No. It wasn't laziness on her behalf. The journey's a f---ing long one. Under normal circumstances, what would it have mattered? Hooter arrives a few hours late, people wait.'' Then, gesturing with his hands as though they were an aeroplane flying upwards, he adds, ''But when the hooter is leaving the country, there are flights to catch, a plan in place, a very strict plan.''
Did Eastwood know where the hooter was going after it had arrived at Mick's? ''No way - it wasn't any of her business,'' replies McCauley, adding, ''She was just a driver. Her job was to drop it on time, pick the money up and come straight home.''
McCauley says that while he was thankful the marijuana eventually arrived at its destination, he was only too aware of the drama it had caused and the repercussions it had on Mick's plans. ''Mick had been running around like a headless chook because the whole system was out. I know this because I bloody well spoke to him.''
McCauley said that, even with a tight deadline, Mick would never have dared pack the 10 heat-sealed bags he'd received as they were. It would have been sloppy; it would have been suicide. ''And he didn't. He had to take a Stanley knife to the lot, fluff it back up to its original state, then re-do it all - something which should have happened four or five hours before. He then had to go through the whole process of spreading the hooter out into a bigger bag - which looks a lot like a suit bag until it's had the air sucked out of it in the heat seal. He had to make sure there were no leaks. It also had to resemble the boogie board bag in shape. That's not a half-hour job, I can tell you.''
McCauley says he also now realises there was the added issue of ''those going for an innocent holiday and those who knew there was a bit of business taking place''. ''The shit had hit the fan and yet none of it could be discussed out in the open, because them other girls had no idea. You telling me that wouldn't have been adding to the stress levels? Them girls that were travelling with Schapelle, they would have sensed something was wrong from the very start.''
Mick Corby claimed in several television interviews that, on the night before Schapelle's flight to Bali, he had had to fix her boogie board bag: ''There was a strip missin' off the boogie board thing, and it was just a little plastic strip, so we stuck that on. We stuck it in the bag. I put it in the car.''
At Bali's popular Kuta Beach, a boogie board costs less than $5 a day to hire. Despite the hassle of carrying extra baggage and the abundant availability of boards for rent in Bali, Schapelle curiously decided to take her own boogie board on the trip.
The Corbys' version of events surrounding the board is that, after Mick fixed the boogie board at home in Tugun, Schapelle then left to go and stay overnight with her mother Ros at the family home in Loganlea because that house is closer to Brisbane Airport. Their Sydney-bound flight was scheduled to leave at 6.05am the next day so, given the early start, travelling buddies Katrina and Ally had also arranged to stay overnight with Ros.
The night before the flight, Schapelle says she picked up Katrina on the way to Ros's house. Katrina later said that she was squashed against the boogie board in the back of the car. She said, ''Her car's only a small car and it was fully packed. I was leaning on the bag so, if it was in there, you would have been able to smell it, for sure. But nothing.''
The four young travellers all have an identical story about what happened the next morning. They got up at 4am, met in the garage and packed their bags into Ros's van.
Katrina was feeling nervous about her first overseas flight and decided to put a lock on her bag. Schapelle actually mocked the first-time traveller for doing this. Ally had packed a small bag and planned to buy a few cheap clothes in Bali. Katrina and Ally both noticed the large size of Schapelle's bag. Ally told a documentary crew: ''She had this big, black suitcase thing. Like, it was like a … it was huge and her boogie board and her, like, airplane bag, too. So I was like, 'OK, you've got a lot of stuff!'
''I think she was taking stuff over for Mercedes though, like vitamins and stuff. Her dad gave her heaps of stuff to give to Mercedes.''
The group was leaving Brisbane on a Qantas Airways domestic flight to Sydney, to connect with their Australian Airlines international flight to Bali. Despite the hassle of having to transfer from the domestic to the international terminal, Schapelle and her friends only needed to check in their luggage once - at the Brisbane domestic terminal. When they arrived in Sydney the bags would be transferred to their connecting international flight.
Ally McComb recalls that everyone was worried they were going to miss the flight to Sydney: ''We were all in a rush to get there, 'cos we were running late.'' The boogie board and suitcases were hurriedly packed into Ros's van and she drove them to the airport in the pre-dawn darkness.
In 2006, two years after Schapelle's arrest, her half brother James Kisina was interviewed by the documentary film crew. Nervous and mumbling incoherently, he stumbled over the details of what happened the night before the group departed for Bali.
His version of events resonates with McCauley's claim that Eastwood had run late with her cannabis delivery to Mick Corby: ''We just packed our bags. I packed mine that night and, um, I dunno where the … I can't remember where their bags were. We put them in, 'cos I think the boogie board came late.''
On October 8, 2004, Schapelle's travelling party set off early on their journey. The rest is now history. Upon arrival in Bali, customs officer Gusti Nyoman Winata spotted something unusual in the boogie board bag that had passed through his X-ray machine. It was the beginning of the end for Schapelle. In the next year or so, both Granny Eastwood and Malcolm McCauley would befall the same fate.The bust
On the morning of March 13, 2005, Eastwood was pulled over by police on the Flinders Highway between Charters Towers and Townsville. Hired as a drug courier once again by McCauley, she had driven from Adelaide and was seconds away from a rendezvous with Wayne Williams. There was no need to panic, thought Eastwood as she climbed out of the car. She hadn't been drinking. She'd stayed well under the speed limit. There was no reason for the cops to be suspicious. Unbeknown to her, there was every reason.
She had popped up in Williams-related surveillance more than a year earlier, in February 2004. When her vehicle reappeared that fateful day, the police were ready to pounce. Within minutes, they had unearthed 25 one-pound bags of top-quality cannabis.
Later that afternoon, the granny from Gawler caved in and provided a detailed confession at Townsville Police Station. She named McCauley as the man who hired her. She said she was being paid between $2200 and $2700 for every five-day round trip, carrying between 15 and 25 one-pound bags of cannabis.
When asked about the number of trips completed she stuttered uncomfortably, eventually owning up to ''somewhere between 15 and 20''. Detectives never thought to ask Eastwood about any additional courier work elsewhere because they didn't really care. They were overjoyed with what information they had. Finally, they were in a position to bust Williams.
Eastwood's detailed statement would later lead to McCauley's dramatic arrest in November 2005. While his Adelaide home was being raided as part of that operation, detectives stumbled on a heap of photographs of both McCauley and another associate, David McHugh, visiting Schapelle in her Bali jail.
When those pictures were later leaked to the media by police, McCauley was spectacularly hurled into the national spotlight, the shots fuelling speculation that Schapelle was linked to the drug world.
Desperate to steer himself and others away from Australia's most famous drug case, he reacted with what he now describes as a ''big coincidence yarn'', telling media he had been a mere tourist in Bali who got in to see Schapelle during the course of his holiday.
He added the man who accompanied him that day, McHugh, was just a random bloke who he'd met on the flight to Bali.
In Sins of the Father, both McCauley and McHugh now set the record straight. Far from having ''bumped into each other on the plane'', the men had worked side by side in the South Australian marijuana trade for several years.An odd couple
Flight records show the pair first raced to Bali on October 26, 2004 - 18 days after Schapelle's arrest - to ''gauge the fallout'' after their pot had suddenly become headline news. Interestingly, it was the first time that McCauley, then 59, had ever travelled overseas.
Seven months after that visit - and with Schapelle suffering a well-publicised meltdown before her approaching verdict - both men were suddenly back on the ground in Bali, sitting alongside her in prison for what McCauley claims was ''a major calming-down exercise''.
He claims that despite Schapelle's best efforts ''trying to convince the world she was innocent, her greatest fear was that it would all unravel back in Australia''.
''There's absolutely nothing to worry about from our side, I promise. United we stand love. If anyone or anything divides us, we're gonna go down, and believe me, nobody wants that,'' he reassured her.
Little did he know that pictures taken that day would later end up being seized by police, who would pass on details of their existence to a Melbourne newspaper. But with McHugh faithfully backing up the story that they were mere strangers and holidaymakers who had got in to ''offer Schapelle support'', the excitement eventually died down.
Somehow, despite all the links, McCauley had somehow managed to put out the fire. But there was to be one more major scare that was never picked up by the media.Holding court
On Febuary 6, 2007, McCauley was on the stand in Townsville Magistrates Court for his own date with destiny. After the bust in which the photos were found, police charged him with having transported 100 kilograms of marijuana from South Australia to Charters Towers between January 2004 and November 2005.
On the first morning of his trial, the police unveiled their star prosecution witness against him and his syndicate. Nobody should have been surprised to find it was Brenda Eastwood. She had been released from prison after serving 12 months and had agreed to give evidence against McCauley and his gang.
In the witness box, under questioning from the police prosecutor, Sergeant John Moran, Eastwood confirmed everything she had previously outlined in her statements. But during an intense spell of cross-examining, she started to contradict her original story. Suddenly questions were being raised about the number of times she had worked as a courier - and how many locations she had actually supplied to.
''She lost it a couple of times,'' says McCauley. ''She started to stray from her statement and at one particular point, she nearly came unstuck. For me, it was a pivotal moment in this whole sorry saga. She was about to blow the whole thing.''
Eastwood knew only too well that if evidence ever emerged of the Gold Coast drug runs, not only would she be staring at more jail time, there would be serious questions raised about the recipient. McCauley had already lied his way out of one Corby scandal. If another was to break, people would definitely put two and two together. Schapelle's tale of innocence would be in tatters.
During the morning sitting, Moran had asked Eastwood: ''So what was the range that you were paid for these trips? What was the lowest you were paid and maybe what was the highest?'
Eastwood said: ''$2700 was the highest, $2200 was the lowest.''
Later, Moran wanted to know exactly when she agreed on a fee for her services as a courier: ''Because I mean, obviously, you wouldn't be agreeing to something like this - illegal and risky as it was - if you didn't know that it was going to be worth some money to you … What were you paid the first time?'' ''$2700.''
''And what were you paid at the end?'' ''$2200.'' ''But why did your fee go down?'' ''I was asked to do a … Oh, how can I put it … a … a fee of going from A to B to C to D.'' ''What do you mean 'A to B to C to D'? I thought it was Adelaide, Charters Towers, Townsville, home?''
Eastwood had gaffed her lines. From there, she stumbled:
''It … that the … that one was yes.'' The courtroom stirred and McCauley's heart was hanging out of his mouth. ''All right. I mean, did you go anywhere else?'' ''No.'' ''So the only places you visited were Charters Towers and Townsville?'' ''Yes, but I was asked to do for several … for a couple of other places.'' ''Other than Charters Towers and Townsville?'' ''Other than them … yes.'' ''For other people?'' ''No.'' ''Well, then who for?'
Eastwood paused and then answered: ''For … for Malcolm. Malcolm asked me … but it never eventuated.''
McCauley says that at that moment he ''nearly died''. ''I looked at Brenda. She looked straight back at me. It was like time had stopped still for several seconds. She gave me an expression as if to say, ''I've just f---ed up, haven't I?'' I gave her one back which read: ''Pull yourself together, woman.'''
''Where else?'' pressed Moran. ''Sydney and … Maroochydore.'' ''Sydney and Maroochydore. Well, that's a significantly longer drive.'' ''Yeah.''
McCauley's first thought was, ''Where's Maroochydore?'' His second thought was that he didn't care. ''She had steered us clear of the Gold Coast, that's all that counted.''
But there was trouble ahead. Moran still couldn't fathom why her payment had decreased: ''If you were to go Adelaide, Sydney, Maroochydore, Townsville, Charters Towers and back to Adelaide, that's a much longer drive than …?'' ''Yeah.'
''You wouldn't have done that for less than you were doing?'
''No.'' ''Would you?'' ''No, that's why I was …'' And then she paused. ''I'm a little bit lost,'' said Moran, staring her down. ''How did that end up with you getting paid less for the Charters Towers run than what you were originally being paid?'
It may indeed have been confusing to Sergeant Moran but, according to McCauley, the truth was really quite simple. Eastwood had originally been paid a top fee of $2700 to drop off at Mick Corby's and then to Wayne Williams at both Charters Towers and Townsville. A to B to C to D. Her fee fell to $2200 in October 2004, when Mick Corby's Gold Coast run suddenly vanished off the list due to his daughter's arrest.
Eastwood tried to cobble some form of excuse together but it still didn't make sense. ''Well, I don't know, for some reason whether Malcolm took what I gave him as I would do the Charters Towers run for that price. I don't know, but all of a sudden I was … started … given $2200.''
''You just got bargained down?'' ''Eh?'' asked Eastwood, before moving up to speed. ''Oh, yeah.''
''You were … you were outmanoeuvred?'' asked Moran. ''Oh very,'' she agreed. McCauley would later say: ''Can you believe that? He took a bite at the prey and then got bored. She was visibly relieved when he changed the topic.''
When it came to his own sentencing, McCauley received 3½ years, to be suspended after 14 months. By his own admission, he could have done ''a whole lot worse''.
''Let's be fair, I'd already got off light after being arrested for the Wagga run. And also, I never got nailed for any of the other shit. So, as far as jail time goes, I did pretty well.''
Far Away from the big cities, coverage of McCauley's trial had mainly been confined to the Townsville Bulletin. Now he was safely behind bars and remaining silent on his Gold Coast connections. Mick Corby must surely have thought he was home scot-free.
But bitterness and resentment began to grow in McCauley. ''I figured that while I was in there, I'd hear from the people who I thought mattered.
''I figured wrong. It was as though I'd been fed to the wolves.''
Sins of the Father by Eamonn Duff is published by Allen and Unwin, $35.