Teenage hairdresser in jail in Bolivia suspected of attempted cocaine smuggling
EXCLUSIVE by: JOHN ELWORTHY and ELAINE KING A NINETEEN-year-old hairdresser who told friends she was off to Spain to visit her father is being held in a Bolivian jail, suspected of attempting to smuggle cocaine out of the country. Zoe Shepherd is believed
A NINETEEN-year-old hairdresser who told friends she was off to Spain to visit her father is being held in a Bolivian jail, suspected of attempting to smuggle cocaine out of the country.
Zoe Shepherd is believed to be in La Paz Prison - and could be facing up to 49 years in prison, one year for each gramme of cocaine it is alleged she was found to be carrying.
It is understood that Zoe, a former pupil of Cromwell Community College at Chatteris, was stopped as she boarded an aircraft, but her travelling companions left Bolivia without being stopped.
This week Zoe's distraught mother, Mandy Lemmon of Charlemont Drive, Manea, near Ely, has refused to speak about her daughter's plight. It is believed that a member of the family has visited Zoe, and she has contacted her family through the internet site Facebook.
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Mrs Lemmon said: "As far as I am concerned, this is a private, family matter."
North East Cambridgeshire MP Malcolm Moss is helping the family, and has received a reply to a letter he wrote to the Foreign Office.
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"Someone from the consulate has been to see her, and she was able to use their mobile telephone to phone home," he said this week. "It is the responsibility of the Consulate to ensure her welfare. It is important that she is kept in reasonable conditions. If her family want me to do more, I am happy to do so. But we cannot bypass local Bolivian law, due process has to take its course."
Friends say that Zoe, who had trained as a hairdresser at Curl Up and Dye in East Park Street, Chatteris, left the salon the week before Easter, saying she was visiting her father in Spain.
When Zoe failed to return, her mother reported her missing, and it was discovered that she had not been to Spain, but had flown direct to Santa Cruz in Bolivia.
Messages left on Facebook by Zoe made it appear she was fine, said a friend. "Our thoughts are with her. I do not condone drugs, it seems she may have been a silly girl, but I hope she gets out soon."
A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We can confirm the arrest of a British National in Santa Cruz, Bolivia on 13 April 2009. We are providing consular assistance.