Family of Ashley Oosthuizen remains convinced of her innocence and upbeat about her prospects despite a Ko Samui court, on August 17th last, confirming a prison term of 33.4 years. One key hope is the possibility of a Royal Pardon while the 23-year-old is reported to be in high spirits despite her ordeal.
The former boyfriend of a South African woman given the death sentence in Thailand for drug trafficking is fighting for Ukrainian forces in the International Legion while simultaneously campaigning against what he terms a ‘monstrous injustice’ in Thailand which he helped engineer due to his double life on the party island of Ko Samui as an international school science teacher while also acting as a drug kingpin supplying foreigners and elite customers with an array of illegal narcotics.
34-year-old Tristan Nettles says he is ‘Fighting for Love in Ukraine’ while admitting his past life as an ‘international dark web drug dealer’ when working as an international school teacher on the holiday island of Ko Samui in Surat Thani province for several years.
Mr Nettles admits that his dual life led to a ‘monstrous injustice’ when his girlfriend, who he met on Ko Samui in 2019, was handed down the death penalty by a Thai court which was later commuted to a full term of life imprisonment after signing for a drugs package and minutes later being arrested by police at a restaurant formerly owned by Nettles in the Bophut area of Ko Samui on October 8th 2020.
Appeals court on Ko Samui this month reduced Ashley Oosthuizen’s sentence from life to 33.4 years in jail
On Wednesday 17th August last, an appeal court sitting on Ko Samui reduced the sentence imposed on 23-year-old Ashley Oosthuizen, formerly from the city of George in the Western Cape province of South Africa to 33.4 years behind bars.
Speaking to the media after the hearing, her mother Lynn Blignaut appeared nonetheless upbeat about Ashley’s prospects for the future despite the harrowing ordeal her daughter has already endured and is still facing.
‘We found out that we misunderstood the meaning of a life sentence. It turns out Ashley got a full life sentence and not only 25 years as we thought. Her appeal went well and her sentence was reduced to 33.4 years. We have another 30 days to appeal,’ she told reporters. ‘We hoped from the nature of the case that she would be released. But we trust that our heavenly Father has everything under control! We praise Him for every little miracle. Our trust is still in Him and we know His plans for Ashley’s future are good. We know we serve a living God who loves us very much and will never leave us and forsake us. His plans are not our plans and they are far greater than we’ll ever realise!’
Family and friends claim young woman is innocent after being convicted of drug trafficking last year
Ashley’s family and friends claim she is innocent of the crime she has been convicted of following a Royal Thai Police investigation and her prosecution for international drug trafficking which is a capital crime in the kingdom.
‘They also searched her apartment, and took her laptop but found no drugs or record of any drug sales. My daughter was raised properly. I know she’s innocent,’ explained her father André Oosthuizen in February after attempts by the family to have his beloved daughter return to South Africa to serve her sentence failed as Thailand does not have an extradition treaty with the country.
Ashley had matriculated from school in South Africa in 2017 but in March 2018 set off for Thailand to train as a foreign teacher and find employment.
Suspicious package from the United Kingdom addressed to a man in the Bophut area of Ko Samui
In October 2020, Thai authorities at Laksi in Bangkok discovered a suspicious package addressed to a Dave Rensburg sent from the United Kingdom to an address in the Bophut area of Ko Samui.
The package was opened and found to contain 260 grams of MDMA otherwise known as ecstasy, a class 1 type narcotic in Thailand.
Authorities alerted the police in Ko Samui and a sting operation was launched with the Royal Thai Police working with Thailand Post to nab the drug ring responsible for the package.
It was sent to a restaurant on Ko Samui, originally rented by Mr Rensburg, selling western type food known as ‘Hot in the Biscuit’ which was managed by Ashley Oosthuizen whose boyfriend Tristan Nettles had left Thailand that August for Ukraine to train as a doctor having resigned his job at an international school on the island.
Ashley Oosthuizen was given the job as the manager of the restaurant by her boyfriend Tristan Nettles
Tristan Nettles had given his girlfriend the position of manager of the restaurant which opened in 2020 after he took it over.
The pandemic had left her without a job and a work permit which is essential for foreigners living and working in Thailand.
Before leaving Thailand, Nettles had sold the restaurant back to the owner of the property as a going concern.
Nettles, the man ultimately responsible for the drugs that Ashley signed for that day, is unapologetic about his undercover role as a drug player on the island while he worked there as a highly regarded teacher.
‘I have done nothing evil. I imported party drugs to a party island which consenting adults came to me to purchase, including teachers, villa and business owners, and even a politician,’ he recently claimed and boasted of his character references from the international school where, according to him, his pupils achieved extraordinary results in his second year in the role.
Drug dealer and now Ukrainian soldier is unapologetic about his exploits as a drug kingpin on Ko Samui
He said that, in a reference to future employers, the international school had termed him a ‘model professional’ during his time as a science teacher in the expensive fee-paying institution.
This is despite Nettles having a long criminal history since he was eleven years old in the United States, having been expelled from five middle schools and seven high schools before going on to an adult life of criminal exploits involving convictions for assault and drug dealing.
While serving in the Marine Corps, Nettles served 56 days in the brig for similar offences in 2009.
‘Thai weed, Canadian chronic, Dutch MDMA crystals & XTC pills, S-Type ketamine, LSD from the UK, 2-CB, Cocaine from Bolivia – Tristan supplied it all,’ a website created by Mr Nettles after the conviction of Ashley Oosthuizen explained in an attempt to show her innocence.
Nettles with a long criminal history says he became infatuated with Ms Oosthuizen’s innocence
Mr Nettles claims that his 22-year-old South African girlfriend knew nothing about his drug dealing on the island which he claims was his major source of income with his work at the international school being just a front.
He has even revealed that the young South African woman’s innocence was a major turn-on for him while they dated on Ko Samui.
‘The rest is all my fault and the fault of others who continue to try and bury the truth. I became infatuated with Ashley for a while and developed quite a fondness towards her. It was intoxicating being around someone so inexperienced and green behind the gills,’ he claimed.
‘At no point did Ashley ever know that I was having drugs sent to her little biscuit shop. At no point did she ever know I was an international dark web drug dealer,’ he said this year as he continues to campaign for Ashley online from Ukraine while taking leave from the front.
Surat Thani police confident in the case which led to Ms Oosthuizen’s conviction for drug trafficking
Yet police in Surat Thani and Ko Samui remain confident in their case against the young South African woman.
Police Major General Sathit Polpinit, the Provincial Police Chief, has stated that the investigation into the case was handled carefully before a decision was made to prosecute Ms Oosthuizen who while initially denying any involvement and knowledge of drug dealing activities, subsequently admitted to police investigators that she knew there were drugs in the package which she had placed in the storage room of the restaurant before police arrived minutes later to arrest her after she signed it.
Police Colonel Yutthana Sirisombat, the chief of Bophut Police Station on Ko Samui said the police operation which led to the arrest of Ms Oosthuizen came after his force had received a tip-off from the Office of the Narcotics Control Board working with Thailand Post and that the detained woman denied any links with it.
However, the arrest report shows that she later admitted she was aware the drugs were linked to her boyfriend, Mr Nettles.
‘Ms Ashley said that she knew that there were drugs inside but said they belonged to Mr Tristan Seth Nettles and that he was the person who arranged for the drugs to be sent,’ a police investigator noted in his report and the file used in her prosecution.
Key hope for the young woman is a Royal pardon
Following Ashley Oosthuizen’s appeal hearing this August, her family were given 30 days to decide on a further appeal.
The final remedy available however may be to petition for a Royal Pardon which is handed down by the Thai Monarch at regular intervals on auspicious occasions and has seen many foreigners in the same situation finally released from prison.
There are currently seven South African women and four men facing the same ordeal behind bars in Thailand which has the sixth-highest prison population in the world.
Figures from 2021 show 285,572 prisoners spread across 144 institutions, many of them there for drug offences serving time in what has been acknowledged as a tough prison regime.
In 2019, Thando Pendu, a drug mule used by cynical Nigerian drug gangs, was finally released after serving 10 years or a 25-year prison sentence for drug trafficking after being granted a royal pardon.
Former Miss South Africa finalist served 16 years in Thai prison where she was parted from her daughter
Another example is Vanessa Goosen, a former Miss South Africa semi-finalist who was jailed in 1994 while pregnant after being caught with heroin in engineering books which she was asked to take out of Thailand for a friend.
The South African woman went on to serve 16 years in prison in Thailand where she was separated from her daughter Felicia when the child was only 3 years of age.
She was finally released in 2010 after being granted a pardon.
In the meantime, it is reported that Ashley Oosthuizen was moved in December 2021 to a prison in Nakhon Si Thammarat province from Ko Samui where conditions are reported to be better.
Her family have recently revealed that prison authorities have allowed them access to apps and improved communication with Ashley who has learned to speak Thai fluently and is getting along well with other inmates including organising dancing lessons.
Ashley has learned to speak Thai fluently and is being treated according to international human rights standards while in prison says Corrections official
Mr Thawatchai Chaiyawat, a deputy director-general of the Department of Corrections has assured her family that the young woman is being treated in line with international human rights standards while also teaching yoga to inmates in the facility she is being held at.
‘Oosthuizen remains in good spirits and gets along well with other inmates, many of whom are foreigners,’ he told the media in February.
Meanwhile, her former boyfriend continues to tell the world that his mission in Ukraine is to fight against Russian aggression on her behalf.
‘I felt I could kill multiple birds with a single stone and, by fighting for other people’s freedom, I felt sure other people would help fight for hers when they found out the monstrous injustice she continues to suffer,’ he revealed to the Times-Union newspaper in Jacksonville Florida. ‘Ashley Oosthuizen is an innocent 23-year-old South African who has been in a Thai prison for almost two years. She was given a death sentence commuted to life in prison. She desperately needs her story reported.’