THERE are claims that accused drug smuggler Cassie Sainsbury fled her South Australian town after racking up a sizeable debt.
Ms Sainsbury, 22, allegedly owes tens of thousands of dollars from her failed gym, Yorke's Fitness, on the Yorke Peninsula, according residents who spoke to 7 News. The Australian reported that the debt was from unpaid rent for the gym.
The personal trainer opened the Yorketown business in 2015 but it closed six months later. Residents told 7 News that she vanished from town after the gym failed, leaving the massive debt in her wake.
Ms Sainsbury was arrested at an airport in Bogota, Colombia, on April 12 after 5.8 kilograms of cocaine was allegedly found inside 18 headphone sets in her suitcase. New CCTV pictures have since emerged of her leaving her hotel with the bags inquestion.
Yorketown florist Lyn Gates told Channel 7 that Ms Sainsbury "disappeared basically overnight" from Yorketown.
"It was a shock to me, plus the community," she said.
"All of a sudden, she just took off and not paid - nicked - the rent and the equipment just disappeared."
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School friend Steph Bajcarz told Seven: "She didn't pay her rent for a really long time and it could be in the thousands.
"She just kind of shut it [the business] down and she said she was changing careers."
An unnamed local woman also told The Advertiser that Ms Sainsbury left town suddenly while still owing money to several people.
The building in which the business was housed now stands empty, except for a blackboard inside that still bears inspirational slogans.
"Your mind is a powerful thing. When you fill it with positive thoughts, your life will start to change," one of the remaining chalk messages reads.
A 12-month membership for the gym cost $795.
Ms Sainsbury's father Stuart defended his daughter yesterday, saying she was innocent and that she was set up by a Colombian man she met on April 3 during a working holiday in the country.
"I don't believe she was a drug mule, she's just my kid. Like, what parent thinks of their kid as a drug mule?" Mr Sainsbury told the Nine Network.
Meanwhile, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has visited Ms Sainsbury inside Bogota's El Buen Pastor prison and provided her with names of lawyers.
"Our diplomats are there to assist her in any way we can but I must stress there are limitations to what we can do once she's subject to the laws of another country," Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told reporters in Adelaide on Wednesday.
It would "not be helpful" for her to speculate on emerging details of the arrest, Ms Bishop said.
"But it is a stark reminder that when you leave Australia you are subject to the laws of the country that you're visiting," she said.
"We have announced that we will have an embassy in Bogota and we don't yet have one so we are providing assistance from outside Colombia."
Earlier it was revealed the US Drug Enforcement Agency reportedly alerted Colombian authorities to their suspicions about Ms Sainsbury.
"We found her because of an alert from the DEA [Drug Enforcement Agency]," Bogota airport's narcotics chief, Commander Rodrigo Soler, told News Corp Australia.
He said she had already cleared security and checked her bag.
"The alert said 'check this person' so we pulled her aside and we searched her luggage and we arrested her. We asked 'is this your bag, did you pack this?'. She said 'yes'."
- with AAP
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