A popular British couple, Roger and Susan Clarke, aged 72 and 70, were arrested by Portuguese police after their cruise ship MS Marco Polo docked in Lisbon on December 4. The couple were held after being caught with cocaine in their suitcase worth in excess of £500,000.
The drugs were hidden in false bottoms in the suitcases, distributed evenly among the four cases in the cabin. There were nine kilos of cocaine in total.
Vitor Ananais, who led the operation for the Policia Judiciaria, said “We knew who were looking for and we boarded the cruise ship with a search warrant.”
It is thought that they acted following a tip off from Spanish police and the National Crime Agency, who have had the couple under surveillance. Ananais said that he believed they were smuggling the cocaine into UK for dealers who are probably based on the Costa del Sol
According to reports in the Portuguese newspaper Correio da Manha the pair were already known to police and both have criminal records in the UK.
The pensioners, who had paid £3,000 each for their Caribbean cruise tickets, were remanded in prison last Wednesday following a court appearance the day after their arrest. It is thought that they are unlikely to face court again for about three months as the investigation continues.
A spokesperson said that “They haven’t said a word since their arrest, even to insist they’re innocent and claim the drugs were planted on them, although Mrs Clarke, who is being kept in isolation in Tires prison near Lisbon, is crying all the time.
A friend of the couple who live in Guardamar del Segura, refused to be named but was quoted as saying: “They were living in sheltered accommodation but decided to move to Spain about 3 years ago, because that is where all Roger’s family live. We are all shocked by what has happened. They are a nice normal couple.”
Both are regulars at the Med Bar in El Raso where Roger, a former soldier, joined, and regularly played in, the golf society.
Their 33-night cruise began in Tilbury, Essex, on November 5. A fellow passenger said “They seemed just like any other couple — they just really, really enjoyed a drink, but who doesn’t?” he said. “I went ashore with them a couple of times and Roger paid for everything with cash.
Even on the boat he would just get wads of cash out of his pocket. But they dodged all the photos, which is so odd for a cruise. Apart from that they were just a lovely couple in their early seventies, having a good time in the sun.”
A spokesperson for the Portuguese Police said that “They haven’t said a word since their arrest, even to insist they’re innocent and claim the drugs were planted on them, although Mrs Clarke, who is being kept in isolation in Tires prison near Lisbon, is crying all the time.
If found guilty, both face sentences of life imprisonment.