Derry woman to be execution witness in Indonesia

Irish woman chosen as spiritual adviser by one of two Australians set to be executed

An Irish woman has been chosen as a spiritual adviser in the final hours before death by one of two Australians set to be executed in Indonesia on Wednesday.

Pastor Christie Buckingham, from Portstewart, Co Derry, has been a long time friend and supporter of Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, who are facing death by firing squad at midnight local time on Wednesday (6pm Tuesday, Irish time).

Ms Buckingham, who moved from Ireland to Australia in 1986, says the pair "should not be executed".

Chan (31) and Sukumaran (34) are part of the so-called Bali Nine, arrested on the Indonesian island of Bali in 2005 for attempting to smuggle 8 kilograms of heroin to Australia.


Sukumaran has asked Ms Buckingham, who is a senior pastor at the Bayside Pentecostal church in Melbourne, to be his spiritual adviser and to witness his execution. Chan has nominated Salvation Army minister and family friend David Soper.

When the Bali Nine were arrested a decade ago, Ms Buckingham (nee McClay) wrote in her prayer diary, “How dumb can you get and still breathe? Nevertheless Lord, show your mercy.”

Since then she has regularly visited the pair, helping Chan gain a certificate in ministry and encouraging Sukumaran in his painting. His most recent self-portrait featured a black hole over his heart and two lines of blood.

Ms Buckingham says the two Australians have been rehabilitated in prison. “These are men that everyone looks to. These are men that are reforming other people,” she told ABC television.

"I defy anyone, anyone, I don't care what walk of life you're in, I defy them to go in there and meet Andrew and meet Myu, look them in the eye, have a conversation with them, and say, 'They are not reformed.' It is impossible. I am convinced, convinced that if president Jokowi went to Kerobokan, saw what they did, saw what they do with the other prisoners, there is no way they would execute them," she said.

“These boys should not be executed. We’re in 2015. We’re in 2015. These boys made a horrendous mistake … and they just want to slaughter them.”

The men are due to be executed by a firing squad drawn from police officers. They are set to be tied to wooden planks in a field and shot at about midnight. Prisoners are given the choice to stand, kneel or sit, and to be blindfolded. Their hands and feet are tied.

Each prisoner has 12 marksmen aiming rifles at their heart. Only three of the 12 have live ammunition in their guns, so the executioner cannot be identified.

If the first round of bullets does not kill them, they will be shot in the head by a police commander.