17 May 2024

Book on betrayed 'Drug Grannies' nets author Sandi Logan a UK True Crime Award

| Albert McKnight
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Sandi Logan (middle) chats with Vera Hays and Florice Bessire at their home in 1983.

Sandi Logan (middle) chats with Vera Hays and Florice Bessire at their home in 1983. Photo: Steve Boyer/Bend Bulletin.

The book about two women who travelled across the world in, unbeknownst to them, a campervan stuffed with drugs has now gone international, while there are also potential plans afoot for the story to reach the silver screen.

Betrayed, which was released two years ago by Canberra and Mystery Bay-based author Sandi Logan, recounts the true story of Vera ‘Toddie’ Hays and Florice ‘Beezie’ Bessire.

The pair were on a road trip in the 1970s but were caught and jailed when they arrived in Australia as their campervan was stuffed with two tonnes of hashish without their knowledge by one of their nephews.

Earlier this month, it was announced that Betrayed had won the 2024 UK True Crime Award for Outstanding Investigative Reporting.

“I was quite surprised, but honoured that it was chosen by the judges,” Mr Logan said.

“It means it was certainly worth the effort … It was worth all of that effort and all of that research.”

He said the fact it had won an award two years after its release showed “a good yarn is a good yarn”, while because the women had been involved in a global drug operation, many still remembered the case.

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He also said the award increased the awareness of the book in the North American and UK markets, as well as its chances of making it to television or into a film.

The book has been optioned by a major Melbourne production house, he said, although he had to hold any more details close to his chest.

“I’m hopeful that will all come to fruition, but these sorts of projects take time to get off the ground,” he said.

“It would be terrific to see that occur.”

Sandi Logan (right) speaks with forensic psychiatrist Dr Sohom Das at the 2024 UK True Crime Awards in London.

Sandi Logan (right) speaks with forensic psychiatrist Dr Sohom Das at the 2024 UK True Crime Awards in London. Photo: Supplied.

Mr Logan was a young journalist working in Canada when he first heard of the case. When he returned to Australia in 1979 he decided to chase it up and approached jail authorities for an interview, to which the women eventually agreed.

He started visiting them each weekend and what he initially thought might be a short story about two women who had been dubbed ‘Drug Grannies’ – even though they were neither grandmothers nor took drugs – turned into a three-and-a-half-year campaign to free them.

While he wrote a manuscript in the 1980s, he sat on it until the COVID-19 lockdown came then he found his old materials on the case in the shed and put the book together.

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Mr Logan said since Betrayed was released two years ago, there was not a month that went by without someone reaching out to him about the story.

Most of the time it was someone with appreciative comments, but occasionally it has been someone connected to the case in some way.

For instance, he said close friends of one of the “drug kingpins” have taken “real umbrage” at the book, as they felt he “should let bygones by bygones”.

“I recognise that as human beings, we’re not perfect,” he said.

“In this instance though, the mistakes that were made were absolutely traumatic.”

He said his book was told from the perspective of Ms Hays and Ms Bessire, but he knew there was more to the story.

“There’s got to be another side to it; there’s the people who set up and managed the whole operation,” he said.

“I’m sure they’ve got their side of the story to tell.”

Betrayed is published by Hatchette Australia.

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