Bali 'suitcase killer' gets early release from prison

Heather Mack was sentenced to 10 years for helping to kill her mother on the Indonesian resort island

Heather Mack, an American woman jailed in 2015, along with her then boyfriend, for her role in her mother's murder, leaves Kerobokan Prison in Bali, Indonesia. Reuters

An American woman convicted with her boyfriend of killing her mother and stuffing the body in a suitcase at a luxury Bali hotel was freed from prison on Friday.

Heather Mack, then a teenager, was handed a 10-year jail term in 2015, while her boyfriend Tommy Schaefer got 18 years for the murder of Chicago socialite Sheila von Wiese Mack on the Indonesian holiday island.

Schaefer beat the 62-year-old victim to death with a fruit bowl during a heated argument at the five-star St Regis resort, before the couple abandoned the suitcase containing the battered body in a taxi and fled.

Mack, who was pregnant at the time of the crime, was found guilty on a lesser charge of assisting in the murder.

Now 25, she left Bali's Kerobokan prison on Friday after being granted early release for good behaviour, the head of the prison's female section said.

"Heather is completely free," said prison head Lili, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.

"When she was released, she was a bit shocked and emotional. She hesitated and was scared, but we cheered her up."

Wearing sunglasses and an orange prison vest, Mack, who was 19 at the time of her conviction, was handed to immigration officials to await deportation back to the United States.

Heather Mack waits inside a holding cell at a court in Denpasar, Bali, during her trial in January 2015. AFP

Bali's immigration office declined to comment on her case or say when she would be flown back home.

It was not immediately clear if Mack would leave with her six-year-old daughter, who was being raised in a Bali foster home.

Earlier, Mack's lawyer told AFP she did not want her daughter to be deported and "hounded by the media".

Since the pandemic, Mack – now fluent in Indonesian and Balinese – has had only video contact with her daughter, the prison head said.

The 2014 murder shook the usually sedate holiday island, with details of the grisly killing emerging during the closely followed trial.

The court heard how von Wiese Mack's badly beaten body was discovered in the taxi outside the hotel where she had been staying with her daughter and Schaefer.

The couple had fled to another part of Bali, where police arrested them.

Schaefer, who remained in prison, confessed to the killing during his trial but claimed he was defending himself during an argument with von Wiese Mack, who was unhappy that her daughter was pregnant.

Prosecutors alleged that Schaefer "blindly hit" von Wiese Mack with the fruit bowl in a fit of rage after she hurled a racial slur at Schaefer, who is black.

Mack hid in a bathroom during the attack but later helped Schaefer stuff the body into a suitcase, the trial heard.

Updated: October 29, 2021, 6:22 AM