On this day in history : 18th December 1985 – British born Kevin Barlow and Australian Brian Chambers face the death penalty in Malaysia after their appeal against conviction for drug smuggling is rejected….

The pair, who were both 28 years old and residents of Australia, were arrested in the November of 1983 at Penang International Airport with 180 grams of heroin in their possession…. Each blamed the other and pleaded innocence – however, at their trial in the following July both were found guilty….

The two men appealed the decision…. Barlow’s aunt, back in Britain, appealed directly to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and to the Foreign Office to intervene and seek clemency on their behalf…. But it was the Australian authorities who took the lead – headed by Bill Hayden, the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs and who was firmly against the death penalty…. However, the Supreme Court of Malaysia refused any leniency and upheld the ruling that they should be executed….

The Honourable Bill Hayden – Image credit : Ali Kazak 9 – CC BY-SA 3.0

Despite a last minute plea for a stay of execution from Australian Prime Minster Robert Hawke both men were hanged in Pudu Prison on the 7th of July 1986…. A law had been introduced in Malaysia in 1983 that if anyone was caught with more than 15g of heroin it carried a mandatory death penalty…. Barlow, a welder from Perth and Chambers, a building contractor from Sydney, were the first non-Malaysians to be hanged under the country’s strict drug laws…. In Australia a similar offence would have received a sentence of three years imprisonment…. After the executions relations between Australia and Malaysia soured….

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