Li Dandan pulled her mother in a tight embrace as soon as she emerged from a Hong Kong court’s cell holding unit, free at last from a drug trafficking case hanging over her head for nearly three years.
Beside them stood prison chaplain Father John Wotherspoon, who had waited anxiously for Li’s release, having spent the past two years helping the Guangzhou native prove her innocence.
“I’m very happy,” he said tearfully after learning of Li’s acquittal. “I’m hoping her case can help the [other drug mules] appeal.”
Wotherspoon since 2013 has been working on a “name and shame” project, identifying and exposing drug lords operating through and in the city. His efforts came as he travelled the world to help drug mules facing trial.
The Roman Catholic priest claimed about 20 mainland women had fallen victim to African drug lords over the past decade – and Li was one of them.
On November 7, 2015, Li was intercepted at Hong Kong International Airport while en route to Malaysia to help deliver clothing samples for her Nigerian boyfriend, IK, who said he would set up business in her home province of Guangdong.
In a backpack she carried were 1,983 grams of crystalline solids stored in a hidden compartment sewn into its linings.
Hong Kong prosecutors said the single mother, now 33, had trafficked 1,934 grams of methamphetamine, a drug more commonly known as Ice, worth HK$580,000.
But Li told a different story: of a love scam in which she was conned into making deliveries for a man she trusted.
“I dated this Nigerian man because he did not smoke or drink. He struck me as a hardworking person,” she wrote in a letter to Wotherspoon in July 2016. “I could not believe he was a drug trafficker.”
She thought he was a real boyfriend.
Wotherspoon said Li was highly vulnerable in light of her divorce.