Heather Mack: American woman convicted of killing mother and stuffing her body in a suitcase at luxury Bali hotel freed

·3-min read
Heather Mack (centre) sits inside an immigration car after she was released from prison in Bali, Indonesia on 29 October 2021 (EPA)
Heather Mack (centre) sits inside an immigration car after she was released from prison in Bali, Indonesia on 29 October 2021 (EPA)

An American woman convicted of helping kill her mother and stuffing her body in a suitcase at a luxury hotel on Indonesia's Bali island was freed from prison on Friday.

Heather Mack was awarded a 10-year prison term in 2015, while her boyfriend Tommy Schaefer got 18 years for killing Chicago socialite Sheila von Wiese-Mack. The incident was widely reported by the media at the time as the “suitcase murder”.

Mack walked out of the Kerobokan Female Prison in Bali’s provincial capital Denpasar on Friday morning after serving seven years of the sentence and will now be deported to the US.

Her sentence was shortened by 34 months due to reductions often granted to prisoners because of their good conduct. This includes a six-month remission of sentence awarded during Indonesia's Independence Day in August, said Lili, the prison’s chief warden, who identifies only by her first name.

Mack, now 26 years old, was escorted through a crowd of reporters outside the prison into a waiting car that took her to an immigration office near the airport.

She did not say anything to the reporters, except “Oh my God... you're insane!” from behind the car’s window. A few of her friends were reportedly seen welcoming her outside the prison.

The prison warden said Mack was a bit shocked, sad and frightened when she was about to leave, “but we all cheered her on and reassured her that everything would be all right.”

“Heather used to say that prison has changed her life a lot, she loves Indonesia and the people who have surrounded her all these years. She will miss us so much and so do we here,” Ms Lili told the Associated Press.

In August 2014, the body of the 62-year-old American socialite was found inside the trunk of a taxi parked at the upscale St Regis Bali hotel.

Mack was 19 years old and pregnant at the time of her arrest, along with her then 21-year-old boyfriend, a day after they were found at a hotel 10 kilometres away from St Regis.

CCTV footage at St Regis showed the couple arguing with the socialite in the lobby prior to the killing, according to the police. The woman was reportedly killed inside the hotel room.

Prosecutors alleged Schaefer “blindly hit” the socialite with a fruit bowl after she hurled a racial slur at him.

Mack was convicted in 2015 and sentenced to prison for assisting Schaefer in killing her mother. Their daughter was born shortly before her parents were convicted.

Mack’s new born was allowed to live with her mother in her prison cell until she turned two, according to Indonesian law. After that, her custody was given to an Australian woman.

Mack will have to take her child with her to the US, as Indonesian law does not allow mothers to leave their underage children in the country, according to her attorney.

Mack and her mother allegedly had a troubled relationship, where police had been called to the family’s Illinois home “dozens of times.”

Robert Bibbs, a cousin of Schaefer, pleaded guilty in 2016 to helping plan the killing in exchange for $50,000 (£36,280) that Mack was expected to inherit. He was sentenced the next year to nine years in prison.

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