Susan Clarke: cocaine grandmother dies in rat-infested Portuguese prison


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The Clarkes became drug traffickers on Caribbean-to-Europe cruises, but fell off because Roger bragged. Photo / Facebook

The cocaine smuggler’s grandmother, Susan Clarke, has died in agony in a rat-infested Portuguese prison where the 72-year-old was serving an eight-year sentence for trafficking on a cruise ship with her husband.

Clarke, who died on Sunday, received a final visit from her husband Roger, 73, four weeks before she died of breast cancer that Portuguese prison doctors had stopped treating.

The Briton, who shared a 3m x 3m cell with three other women, died behind bars at the maximum security Portuguese prison EP Tires in Sao Domingo de Rana, west of Lisbon.

She had been held there since police acting on a whistleblower found 9 kg of cocaine in the liners of four suitcases the Clarkes had on the luxury cruise liner Marco Polo.

The Clarks, who changed their name to Button, had previously served a sentence in a Norwegian prison for drug trafficking.  Photo / Facebook
The Clarks, who changed their name to Button, had previously served a sentence in a Norwegian prison for drug trafficking. Photo / Facebook

The couple were arrested as the ocean liner Marco Polo entered Lisbon from the Caribbean in December 2018.

Susan and Roger have claimed they are thinking of smuggling exotic fruit after Roger picked up the suitcases when the ship stopped on the island paradise of St. Lucia.

However, the couple, from Chatham, Kent, in south-eastern England, who have eight grandchildren, had previously been caught smuggling 240kg of cannabis into Norway in 2004.

They are believed to have made several contraband trips before a sniffer dog detected drugs in their battered old Nissan in Oslo.

They skipped bail and changed their name from Button to Clarke, but were ultimately extradited and served time in a Norwegian prison.

Former born truck driver Roger Button and his wife had tried to reinvent themselves as respectable British expatriates living in Spain.

Susan Clarke died of breast cancer in EP Tires prison in Portugal (above) after being denied treatment by prison doctors.  Photo / Supplied
Susan Clarke died of breast cancer in EP Tires prison in Portugal (above) after being denied treatment by prison doctors. Photo / Supplied

But they are believed to have worked for a British drug gang on the Costa del Sol, routinely smuggling cocaine into Europe for up to six cruises a year, which they never fully explained to their friends and family.

After their arrest in 2018, the Clarkes were locked in separate Portuguese prisons.

Susan found a lump in her breast in early 2020 and was diagnosed with cancer, but should have been transferred to a UK prison to complete her sentence.

The UK Mirror reported that four weeks ago Susan had one last visit with Roger and “they saw each other through a plexiglass window”.

“She was sentenced to life imprisonment – left to die in a foreign prison with no relatives around her,” the source said.

“She had a lump in her throat, which meant she couldn’t really speak.

“She was battling breast cancer, but the Portuguese doctors decided there was nothing they could do for her, so they stopped her treatment.

“She was in so much pain. Roger seems to think they won a battle to get back to the UK, so he’s devastated that she wasn’t well enough to take the step.”

Clarkes’ latest drug mission failed, allegedly, because Roger bragged about having friends on the cruise ship.

After leaving the ship for the island of Saint Lucia, he returned with four new suitcases and “took them straight to his cabin”.

He reappeared on the pool deck “boasting” of getting “a very good deal, $ 200 for four suitcases” which would have cost the equivalent of £ 1,500 or nearly $ 3,000 at Harrods.

He gave one of his old suitcases to a cabin boy, and then the crew said they had never seen anyone “exchanging suitcases in the middle of the trip”.

Roger was known to brag about drinks the couple enjoyed every night on the cruise before the police collapsed.

At their trial in Lisbon, Roger Clarke claimed he was bringing the suitcases back to the UK for a friend who planned to sell them at a profit to high-end stores such as Harrods.

When sentence was handed down, Roger was holding his wife’s hand in court as an interpreter announced their fate.

Susan Clarke died in a rat-infested Portuguese prison where she was serving an eight-year sentence for smuggling cocaine.  Photo / Facebook
Susan Clarke died in a rat-infested Portuguese prison where she was serving an eight-year sentence for smuggling cocaine. Photo / Facebook

He would have whispered to her, “Jesus Christ, I wasn’t expecting more than four years. I’ll be 80 when this is all over.

Portuguese prosecutors have said they estimate the Clarkes are making up to $ 50,000 per cruise for drug trafficking in Europe.

They believed the couple had planned to unload the cocaine in the UK.

After falling ill with cancer in prison, Susan Clarke, a former secretary, lost at least 15 kg and feared she would not be released alive from prison.

“My health is terrible,” she said.

“I was sentenced to death. My worry is that I will leave in a box. “

“We feel completely abandoned. The Foreign Office ignored us, Boris Johnson did not help.

“I can understand why people might think we are guilty but we are not.”

Roger Clarke has now been transferred from his cell in EP Lisboa prison to a less secure facility.

The British Foreign Office said: “We are supporting the family of a British woman who died in Portugal.

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