CONVICTED drug smuggler and former Miss SA finalist Vanessa Goosen told a group of spellbound women about her journey from a Thailand jail cell to being a motivational speaker.
Goosen, 40, was a guest at a Club 100 women’s group luncheon at Kipling’s Brasserie at the Boardwalk yesterday.
She was released two years ago after spending 16 years in Lard Yao women’s prison in Bangkok after being caught with 1.7kg of heroin.
“It’s been two years now since I came back and people still [associate] me with drugs,” she said.
“I am now a motivational and inspirational speaker because I want people to know that there is hope, and that giving up is not a solution. It is not easy as I am still getting anxiety attacks, especially when I am confined in small places, but that will also go away.”
A Miss SA finalist in 1994, Goosen – who earlier this year released her book, Drug Muled, authored by Joanne Joseph – told how she landed up in a foreign prison.
“My boyfriend had a friend called Jackson who was always smartly dressed. At the time we had a clothing shop in Johannesburg. Jackson told us we could get clothes at a cheap price in Thailand and I decided to go there. Jackson called me to say he had a brother who was going to give me engineering books,” she said.
“At the airport I was stopped by officials and when they checked the books I was carrying they found the heroin in the spine of the books.
“My world just ended in front of me and that was the beginning of my problems.”
Goosen was pregnant when she was arrested and gave birth to her daughter, Felicia, now aged 18, in prison but had to send the toddler home to South Africa shortly after her second birthday. Felicia went to live with Goosen’s friend, Melanie Holmes.
“When my mother heard of my arrest she tried to commit suicide, my older sister ended up in a mental institution and I lost my grandfather who died of a heart attack. All the years I had to stay strong for the sake of my daughter,” she said.
“[Holmes] was like a sister to me because she visited me in Thailand.”
Sadly, the two friends would never see each other in South Africa again as Holmes died just four months before Goosen’s release.
Goosen said she had always wanted to write a book about her experience.
“The aim is to get a warning message out there that drugs are dangerous; it does not matter if you are taking them or trafficking them. The book also inspires and gives people hope. It does not matter what you are going through, you will soon pass it.
“My aim is to get sponsors so that I can go to schools and teach them about the dangers of drugs.”
Goosen said her boyfriend had apologised for abandoning her and the baby and insisted he had nothing to do with the drugs.