KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- A British laborer was sentenced to death today for attempting to smuggle out of Malaysia 1.4 pounds of heroin hidden in his boots and underwear.
Penang High Court Judge Mohamed Dzaiddin Abdullah said that after a five-day bench trial he could find no extenuating circumstances to warrant the less severe sentence of life imprisonment for Derrick Gregory.
Gregory's lawyer, R. Rajasingham, said he will lodge an immediate appeal.
Gregory, 37, an odd-job laborer from Isleworth who had pleaded innocent to a charge of trafficking in 1.4 pounds of heroin, appeared shocked when the sentence was delivered.
'It was expected, wasn't it,' he told reporters before he was led out of the dock in handcuffs to Penang jail where he has been held since his arrest on Oct. 7, 1982.
The judge had the option of sending Gregory to the gallows or sentencing him to life in jail because the offense was committed before April 1983, when Malaysia introduced the mandatory death sentence for trafficking half an ounce or more of heroin or morphine.
'It is my finding that you merely suffer from a personality disorder characterized by your immaturity and anti-social behavior,' he said, dismissing defense arguments that the Briton was mentally too unstable to be fully responsible for his actions.
In London, members of his family said they planned to fly to Malaysia as soon as possible.
Since Malaysia first introduced the death penalty for drug trafficking in 1975 at least 47 people have been hanged, including two Australians and six Singaporeans.
The Australians, Brian Chambers and Kevin Barlow, were executed in July 1986 after they lost their court appeals against sentence and last-ditch pleas for clemency were rejected by a Pardons Board.
Gregory was arrested on Oct. 7, 1982, at Penang International Airport when a policeman noticed he had difficulty walking because his boots were too big for his feet.
Seven packets of heroin were found tucked into the toes of each of the boots and another four packets were discovered in his underpants.
Rajasingham, in appealing to the judge for a jail term, said expert evidence from psychiatrists who had examined Gregory proved that the defendant suffered from a serious personality disorder.
He said experts had shown that Gregory was a vulnerable person and easily influenced.
'He did not take the initiative to smuggle the drugs but was ordered around like a robot,' Rajasingham said.
A Malaysian psychiatrist disagreed with the views of a London colleague that Gregory was not sufficiently sound mentally to be held responsible for his actions.
Prosecutor Josephine Sivaretnam argued Gregory was not insane and had voluntarily agreed to traffick the heroin.
She dismissed Gregory's claim that he had carried the drugs because he was frightened that if he refused, a smuggling syndicate would carry out a threat to kill him and his wife and child at home in England.