How I shared Schapelle Corby's flight into hell

AS she embarked on her first overseas trip by herself, Cowra local Sarah McAlister had no idea she would share a flight with the woman who was to become Australia's most famous overseas prisoner.

Ms McAlister was on the same flight to Bali as Schapelle Corby when she was found with 4.2 kg of cannabis in her boogie board bag in October 2004.

The convicted drug smuggler walked out on parole this week after serving nine years in an Indonesian prison, causing Ms McAlister to reflect on what could have been.

"It was my first overseas trip without anyone else, so I'd told my parents I wouldn't be calling them unless I was in trouble or needed more money," Ms McAlister recalled.

"When we arrived at the airport [in Bali], our bags weren't on the carousel, they were all lined up on the floor, so when I got to my bag, I didn't even touch it, someone else picked it up and took it out to my car. I didn't touch my bag until I was in my room at the resort."

Too busy enjoying her holiday, the media circus surrounding Ms Corby's arrest escaped her.

"About day four I got so sunburnt I couldn't leave my room, and the only thing that was in English on TV was the international news and that's when I saw a 27-year-old brunette on my flight was done for drugs," Ms McAlister said.

"I was a 27-year-old brunette and hadn't called my parents to let them know I'd arrived safely. Apparently [the day I finally called them] was the day they were going to call embassy and try to work out where I was. They were very relieved when I finally called them to say 'it wasn't me'."

"I'm now married and I've got a whole different life than I did back then. What if I hadn't had that chance, what if I was still in Bali? I can't imagine what she must have gone through at all"

She wasn't the only one out of the loop either.

"I met some Aussies when I was over there and when I told them the news , they said they couldn't believe she'd do it, because every time they walked up the street, someone would come and offer them something, so they couldn't understand why she would smuggle drugs into Bali," she said.

Since Ms Corby's release, Ms McAllister has been plagued with the question of 'what if' she had found herself in Ms Corby's shoes.

"I'm now married and I've got a whole different life than I did back then. What if I hadn't had that chance, what if I was still in Bali? I can't imagine what she must have gone through at all."

She supports the way the Indonesian law was upheld though and said travellers need to heed the rules of the country they are in.

"Whatever country you're in, it's their laws. We expect people to come here and abide by our laws, so we need to abide by other people's laws. What happened has happened and she was found guilty," Ms McAllister said.

As Ms Corby reportedly preps for a multi-million dollar, tell-all interview with Channel Seven's Sunday Night program, Ms McAllister said she's eager to continue following her story.

"There's no point having an argument about whether she did or didn't do it and whether she's entitled to money to sell her story or whatever else," she said.

"It's happened and it's going to sell, so why would the media not want to buy that story? I bought the book; I'll buy the next book. I don't think we'll ever really know if she did it or not."

katie.burgess@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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