Byron Bay woman gets four years’ jail over Bali policeman’s death

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Sara Connor and David Taylor in Kerobokan jail on January 4, 2017. Photo: Alan PutraBali: Byron Bay woman Sara Connor has been found guilty of fatal group assault and jailed for four years over the death of a Bali police officer despite maintaining her innocence throughout a marathon four-month trial. The seven months Connor has already spent in jail will be deducted from her sentence.
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The verdict comes after her British DJ boyfriend David Taylor – who confessed to bashing Wayan Sudarsa but insisted he was acting in self-defence – was convicted of fatal group assault and sentenced to six years’ jail.

Mr Sudarsa, a Bali police officer for 35 years, was found dead in the sand on Legian beach with 42 wounds on August 17 last year.

In sentencing Connor, the judge said an aggravating factor was that Connor tried to get rid of evidence by cutting up the police officer’s cards. The judges did not accept Connor’s claim that she had destroyed the cards to protect the officer from identity theft, but found instead that she had acted out of guilt.

The judges also rejected Connor’s claim that she had been trying to separate her boyfriend and the police officer when she sat on the policeman’s stomach, finding instead that she was trying to prevent the victim from fighting back. The judges said what she had done had caused deep sorrow to Mr Sudarsa’s family. However mitigating factors included that Connor had two children and was separated from their father.

Both Connor and prosecutors have seven days to decide whether to appeal the sentence. Connor’s lawyer, Erwin Siregar, said he would advise his client to do so. Another of her lawyers, Robert Khuana, said her defence team still believed she should be freed. “We would suggest the appeal, because the truth will eventually, late maybe, but it will come out.” Mr Khuana said the victim died because of blunt force trauma, not of anything else. He said Connor put her arm around Mr Sudarsa’s neck, which didn’t kill the victim.

Prosecutors had requested that both serve eight years behind bars for the fatal group assault of the officer, even though the couple testified that Taylor had acted alone when he hit Mr Sudarsa with multiple weapons, including a Bintang beer bottle.

It is standard practice for prosecutors to appeal a sentence that is less than two thirds of what they requested.

When Fairfax Media told Mr Sudarsa’s widow, Ketut Arsini, of Taylor’s verdict, she held back tears and with a shaky voice said: “What can I say, if that’s the best, I can’t say anything.”

“I don’t know the law, I don’t know legal matters, it’s up to the prosecutor, the law (judge) if that’s what’s been decided, then I can’t really say anything.”

Later she was more composed. When hearing of Connor’s verdict she said she trusted the legal system.

“If it’s four years, then it’s the maximum she deserved,” she said.

Ms Arsini said she was content that the fact her husband was a police officer on duty had been taken into consideration by the judges.

However she disputed Connor and Taylor’s claims that Mr Sudarsa had attacked them first. “I don’t believe that, my late husband was a friendly person. He wouldn’t attack them.”

Mary Lockton, who once shared a flat with Connor in London, said the family and friends of Sara Connor were devastated by the verdict. “She has pleaded her innocence from the very beginning and we had been hoping that she would have been acquitted of all charges,” Ms Lockton said.

“The whole trial has been traumatic for the family especially Sara’s two boys. At least we have certainty now. We would appreciate that the media respect the privacy of the family at this time.”

Last month Connor said she was expecting the worst and had lost all hope of seeing her children grow up. The 46-year-old has frequently spoken of her anguish over being separated from her sons, aged nine and 11, who are living with their father in Byron Bay.

She loved her children “more than anything” and they missed her and were waiting for her, she said.

“If this is what God has planned for my life, to punish me so harshly and deprive my children of their mother, I hope He will give my children the strength to cope,” she said in an emotional last-ditch plea on February 28.

The community of Byron Bay has rallied around Connor, who ran a fresh pasta business and worked at the Arts Factory Backpackers Lodge, presenting a booklet with 78 testimonials to the court.

“I’ve been living with Sara and her kids for three years, she can be described as the purest and most amazing spirit I’ve ever met,” Oren Bresler wrote in one of the testimonials.

Connor had travelled to Bali on August 16 last year for a rendezvous with Taylor, a Briton known as DJ Nutzo, whom she had known for several years in Byron Bay but had only been romantically involved with for several months.

The couple had dinner and shared an arak cocktail made with Balinese spirits before heading to the beach outside the Pullman Hotel in Legian to have a beer and drink in the balmy night.

However the night began to go horribly wrong as they kissed by the water. Connor’s handbag went missing and the couple became convinced it had been stolen.

Taylor approached a man whom he was convinced had something to do with the missing handbag. The man, Mr Sudarsa, said he was a police officer. However Taylor accused him of being a fake cop and frisked him. Mr Sudarsa pushed Taylor and the two began brawling in the sand.

Connor insisted she tried to break up the fight and her only role in the altercation had been to try to protect the victim. She said she overbalanced and fell on the police officer, who bit her on the arm and thigh.

She testified that she then resumed the hunt for her missing handbag and was not present when the blows that would prove fatal were inflicted.

“I never knew the police officer was seriously hurt. I left ??? I never went back to the scene,” Connor, who is originally from Italy, told the court. She said Taylor had told her Mr Sudarsa had “passed out”. “English is not my first language. That for me could just mean tired.”

Taylor insisted Mr Sudarsa, a married father-of-two, had still been alive when he left him on the beach. However, he took the officer’s wallet and mobile phone from his body.

Connor testified that she wanted to go to the police station to report her stolen bag, but the ojek (motorcycle taxi) driver refused to take her because she had no money.

According to the ojek driver, he didn’t take her because she was covered in blood, and this triggered flashbacks of the Bali bombing.

“How different my life would have been if my bag was never stolen and the taxi driver had taken me to the police station that night,” Connor would later lament.

Instead, the couple bought cigarettes and returned to their Kuta homestay, Kubu Kauh Beach Inn, where Connor cut up the police officer’s cards.

She claimed she did so to protect the police officer from identity theft, a claim the prosecution labelled “irrational”.

The following morning the couple went to Jimbaran, where they enjoyed two days of their holiday, having a swim and lunch at the beach, oblivious to the fact the police officer was dead.

Connor testified that it was only when she switched on her phone to pay her car registration two days later that she received anxious messages from her friends. Her face was plastered all over the news after her cards had been found near the battered corpse of a police officer. Police were combing the resort island looking for them.

“After I received the phone call we were both crying,” Connor said. “That’s when I asked David: ‘Did you hit him with something?’ He told me yes,” Connor said. “We were desperate.”

Panicked, they burnt the bloodied clothes they had been wearing the night of Mr Sudarsa’s death and Taylor threw the officer’s mobile phone against a wall.

They then went to the n consulate, where police were waiting for them.

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