Shortly before dawn on December 4 last year, four Portuguese police officers boarded the Marco Polo cruise ship in normal clothing when it docked at the end of a month-long trip to the Caribbean.
The officers went straight to cabin 469 and woke the occupants, retirees Roger and Sue Clarke.
On the night table, officers found a gold-plated 2018 diary of Mrs. Clarke, a spectacled 71-year-old former secretary, marked the days with handwritten details of the couple's life.
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The officers went straight to cabin 469 and woke the occupants, retirees Roger and Sue Clarke (photo)
Roger Clarke and his wife Sue (pictured together) were arrested with 9 pounds of the class A drug hidden in their suitcases while their ship docked the MC Marco Polo in Portugal
There was a mention for her husband, who suffers from a heart condition, to go to the appointment of a doctor and another to record an upcoming facial treatment and manicure for her. Other days were marked with details of trips to bingo and meals. & # 39; Indian with Karen and Paul, April, Sean and Sean & # 39; s boys & # 39; s read such an article, in addition to an extensive shopping list with & # 39; shampoo, conditioner, washing powder, deodorant, tea bags & # 39; .
Until now, so everyday.
But it was under the bed that the police found what they were really looking for – four new suitcases, two blue and two brown ones.
Officers cut into the lining of one, revealing a white powder hidden in it. It was cocaine.
A total of 9 kg (20 lbs) of the medicine with a street value of £ 1 million was hidden in the luggage.
From the beginning, the Clarkes said they had no idea what it was or why it was there. They were just ordinary pensioners who had settled in Spain to enjoy an ex-pat pension in the sun. They had paid for the £ 6,800 cruise with savings made by & # 39; hard work & # 39; were created.
Roger Clarke and Sue Clarke, a British retired couple convicted of smuggling drugs aboard a cruise ship, arrive at the court in Lisbon prior to their conviction today
But their story did not hold water for long.
A further investigation of the diary revealed details of another cruise they had taken to Brazil earlier that year and the dates of a third 16-day trip booked for the coming March. The entry was: & # 39; Fly to Havana, Cuba. Cruise to Philipsburg, St. Maarten; St John, Antigua and Barbados; Funchal, Madeira; Malaga, Alicante. About £ 4,000. & # 39;
And that was just the 2018 diary. Police investigations would show that the couple had made a series of £ 18,000 cruises in the two years prior to their arrest.
Given that they lived on a joint monthly income, after rent, of only £ 885, how could they finance such a lifestyle?
The Portuguese police still had an ace in store. The tip about the Clarkes came from the British police – who in the past knew about a dark secret.
& # 39; Roger Clarke and Susan Clarke have a criminal history of drug offenses and were imprisoned in Norway … for the import of 240 kg of cannabis, & # 39; read the communique.
The couple have been arrested by the Portuguese police and have been waiting in prison for their day in court for the past nine months. When it finally arrived last week, their statements were hardly convincing.
Mr. Clarke claimed he had an agreement with a mysterious Jamaican entrepreneur to ship pineapples to the UK and earned £ 2000 per container of fruit that he organized during a stopover on his cruises. If & # 39; side activity & # 39; he said that he had been asked to take new suitcases to the UK for which he would receive £ 200 at a time.
The Portuguese police had a very different theory – namely that the pair was paid between £ 18,000 and £ 26,500, plus costs, per trip to smuggle drugs.
Three judges in Lisbon agreed and condemned the Clarkes to eight years in prison yesterday.
Police images (right and left) show that Clarke's suitcases are taken apart to show the hidden cocaine in the couple's cabin on the cruise ship
Approximately £ 1 million cocaine was discovered by the police in the lining (pictured above) of suitcases that Clarke had taken on a luxury cruise from the Caribbean
Mr. Clarke, holding hands to his wife when they got to know their destiny through a translator, whispered to her: & Jesus Christ, I didn't expect more than four years. I'm 80 when this is all over. & # 39;
Back on the Costa Blanca of Spain – where the couple settled three years ago – there is little sympathy for the Clarkes.
Home for their detention was a rented whitewashed villa with a roof terrace and a turret in the resort of Guardamar del Segura, south of Alicante. Mrs. Clarke took yoga and spinning classes and her husband was a member of a golf club at a British bistro bar.
But although Mrs. Clarke was found to be good, the abrupt manner of her 72-year-old husband had quickly disrupted feathers. & # 39; He ordered drinks without & # 39; to say hello & # 39; even when the staff tried to make him more polite by teaching him how to say it in Spanish, & # 39; a local resident remembered. Another described him as & # 39; a complete know-it-all & # 39; and a & # 39; very loud Londoner & # 39 ;.
Known for his tendency to exaggerate his past, he quickly earned the nickname & # 39; Mr. Bull ***** er & # 39 ;.
& # 39; If you had done something, you could bet that Roger had done your bottom dollar – but he would have done it bigger and better, & # 39; said plumber Paul Craven, 64, a former friend who was almost entangled by the lies of the couple.
About a brandy, Mr. Clarke would boast that he had been a boxer, doctor, pilot, paramedic, and prison officer. He even said that he had served in the SAS during a six-year military career. Most of the time, however, he claims to have been a chef, worked in a restaurant with a Michelin star and has two eateries in Benidorm.
Most took what he said with a huge grain of salt. As Mr. Craven's wife, Pauline, 61, Clarkes' former cleaner, said, "I knew it was nonsense when he invited us to chilli and started boiling the minced meat in a pot of water." ;
The Portuguese police, who gave a tip from the British NCA, discovered 9 pounds of cocaine hidden in the lining of four suitcases Clarke had taken from the island of St. Lucia
In reality, Mr. Clarke, born in Dartford, had spent much of his life working as a truck driver.
But his greatest secret was not his work – it was his identity. Clarke was born as Roger Button in Dartford, Kent, and used that name when he met Sue over 20 years ago. In the meantime, she had three children from her first marriage to an actor. The couple had been together for about 25 years when they separated.
She stayed in the marital home in Cheadle, Cheshire, to take care of the children who were then in their late teens. But then she met Mr. Clarke and & # 39; dropped & # 39; they just release, it is claimed.
& # 39; She has just left the children with her husband and has run away & # 39 ;, said a former colleague.
& # 39; She had to make a choice and she chose to start a new life with Roger and that didn't apply to the children. The children were in their teens and you can imagine that they were very upset. & # 39;
Around the turn of the century, the couple moved to the Costa Blanca. At the time, they lived in an apartment building just outside Torrevieja, near Alicante, where they ran a bar restaurant. But in 2002 it was in serious financial trouble.
Mr. Clarke is struggling to pay his suppliers and claims that he was approached by a customer who said that if he was willing to smuggle cannabis into Norway, he could pay off his debts.
Mr. Clarke gave evidence to the Portuguese court and said that he agreed to the trip, but that the smuggling gang on his return & # 39; heavy & # 39; against him and insisted that he go again. He added: & # 39; When I & # 39; no & said they beat me up and said they would do the same to my wife if I didn't make another trip.
& # 39; They insisted that I take my wife because it looked better than a single man. We were imprisoned in Norway and imprisoned for two months before being released. We stayed in Oslo, but we were threatened and followed. We went to the police and asked for help, but they said they couldn't help us. & # 39;
Judicial documents show that between 2003 and 2004 the couple participated in 16 drug smuggling trips to Norway for 15 months in the battered old Nissan of Clarke.
A total of £ 1 million drugs were imported – hidden in secret compartments in the vehicle body. They received a total of £ 33,000 for their role. Eleven of the trips were made from Spain, the other five from the Netherlands.
Sue and Roger Clarke & # 39; s Villa in Guardamar, Spain, where they were the life and soul of local bars and members of a golf club before their arrest and conviction for drug trafficking
Clarke usually collected the medication at & # 39; a supermarket near Alicante & # 39 ;. The couple then went to the German port of Kiel before making the 20-hour ferry crossing to Oslo.
They were caught in Oslo on September 13, 2004, but they skipped bail and returned to England in January 2005. Then they changed their name to Clarke & # 39; to prevent the revenge of criminal employees & # 39 ;.
Their fleeing life ended when Mr. Clarke became president of a residents' association and his photo appeared in a local newspaper. It led to the arrest and extradition of the couple to Norway, where they were imprisoned in 2011 – Mr. Clarke for almost five years and his wife for three years and nine months.
After the release of the couple from prison in Norway, they told friends they were convicted of tobacco smuggling.
Settling in Spain in 2016, their love of luxury cruises quickly raised her eyebrows.
But Mr. Clarke explained away their expensive flavors by saying that they were funded by & # 39; the pineapple run & # 39 ;. He said acquaintances – a Jamaican businessman named Lee and another man nicknamed Dee – had asked him to negotiate buying exotic fruit for shipping back to the UK in the Caribbean.
His work as a chef made him fit for the role, he added.
Clarke, from Bromley, Kent, claimed after his arrest that a mysterious UK-based Jamaican businessman named Lee had asked him to negotiate the sale of exotic fruit during cruise ships stopovers in the Caribbean and bring the cases back & # 39 ; as a sideline & # 39; (file photo)
He revealed that he was occasionally asked to return suitcases. These were supposedly high-quality samples, with the aim of selling them for up to £ 1500 per box at & # 39; places like Harrods & # 39 ;. He would be paid £ 200 per case.
He could not explain to the court why his paymasters did not simply put the suitcases together with the fruit in the transport containers.
It was a story the Cravens were familiar with. In May 2016, the Clarkes invited them to join them on a £ 3,000 per capita cruise to the Caribbean.
& # 39; Roger told me about his pineapple import and wanted me to keep his wife on the ship & # 39 ;, Mrs. Craven said. & # 39; They offered to pay for everything. & # 39;
But the three-week trip came with a catch. The Cravens should transfer their clothing to new suitcases Mr. Clarke picked up in St. Lucia. & # 39; He said the people with the pineapple also paid for the cruises, & # 39; said Mr. Craven.
& # 39; They would pay for ours. He said: & # 39; I just want you to bring some bags back & # 39 ;. & # 39;
But once the suitcases were named, the Cravens became suspicious. They rejected the offer – and were immediately cut off by the Clarkes. Mrs. Craven even lost her cleaning job of £ 80 a month.
The police do not doubt that the trips were a cover for drug trafficking. They think that the couple had contact with drug trafficking during two journeys in 2017 and two other contacts they made in 2018.
Fast forward to November 2018 and the Clarkes sail again. They were leaving Kent, possibly suspicious, because when they had flown in from Spain, they had only talked about family visits to Kent at passport control – and & # 39; did not mention travel to the Caribbean & # 39 ;.
During the trip Mr. Clarke landed on the island of St. Lucia and returned with four new things. He gave away the suitcases with which they embarked on their cruise – one for a cabin steward and two for the man in St. Lucia who handed him the new suitcases.
When the ship returned to Europe, the British National Crime Agency contacted Portuguese police drug trafficking. Where the specific data that they have provided is unknown. & # 39; Roger and Susan Clarke are supposed to have collected suitcases with 10 kg of cocaine when the Marco Polo stopped in St. Lucia on 11/21/2018, & # 39; read the tip.
Warning that the & # 39; very likely & # 39; was that they would try to unload the drugs after the ship was docked in Portugal, the message ended: & # 39; Keep me informed of the action you want to take. & # 39;
The rest is, as they say, history.
In court, Clarke broke into tears when he said that he and his wife had lost all their possessions as a result of their arrest.
Since this is their second offense, the show did not make much difference with the court – or their former friends. As Mrs. Craven said last night: & # 39; We could easily have been in that courtroom instead of them and we would have lost everything.
& # 39; I will never forgive them for what they did to us.
& # 39; I have no shred of sympathy for them. They are just greedy. They wanted to live the high life with money that they had not earned through hard work and they were willing to sacrifice friends like us. Roger spoke in court about being cheated by people he trusted, which is exactly what they did to us. Whatever happens to them from now on is entirely their fault. & # 39;
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