A Qantas Airways Ltd. baggage handler at Sydney Airport played the clown on Wednesday, April 6, 2005. As a result, the baggage handler has lost his job, put his employer in a most embarrassing situation and brought into spotlight loose security standards on checked baggage casting further doubts on the possible guilt of a 27-year-old Queensland woman charged in a Denpasar Court with the capital offense of importing 4.1 kilograms of cannabis into Bali.
The bizarre incident happened when a marketing executive traveling from Sydney to Melbourne looked out the waiting lounge window to see a baggage handler driving past wearing a camel head – part of two costumes for a camel and a crocodile he was carrying in his checked baggage.
Reportedly, by the time he informed airport authorities the larrikin baggage handler, now finished with his furtive attempt at tarmac comedy, had already returned the costume head to the passenger's baggage.
But, by that point the deed was done and the hapless baggage handler's was destined for the unemployment line where he will, no doubt, pause and consider writing "camel" in the blank for "previous job history." Caught "in the act" of manipulating the luggage labeled "containing animal costumes" on CCTV surveillance cameras, the man was summarily fired.
But the incident is anything but over. Later, no less than Qantas' CEO Geoff Dixon was compelled to issue official explanations in connection with the case addressing the "heightened community concerns around security of baggage." Not unexpectedly. the international press was abuzz and asking: Just how much tampering goes on when passengers aren't looking at their checked luggage?
The possible connection between the camel costume incident and trial now underway in Bali of the young Australian was painfully obvious. Shapelle Corby is on trial for her life resulting from the discovery last year of 4.2 kilograms of cannabis in her baggage upon arriving in Bali. Miss Corby flew to Bali on flights that connected in Sydney and were handled by Qantas baggage handlers during the Sydney flight connection to Bali.
Before the latest incident in Sydney, Ms. Corby's defense team in Bali had forwarded the theory and presented a witness in support of their contention that passengers' baggage is sometime unwittingly used to transport drugs. The Bali lawyers have argued that their client, who has no previous criminal record and no history of drug use, had her surfing bag used without her permission to send drugs from Brisbane to Sydney where the Sydney contact was unable to unload the contraband cargo.
Whether the latest developments in Sydney will be weighed by the Indonesian judges in deciding Ms. Corby's fate is uncertain.
One local observer of the local trial in Bali has asked if Sydney airport authorities checked the baggage handler before his dismissal to determine what substance he may have been smoking, and from which piece of baggage it came from, before he attempted to tamper with passengers' luggage on closed-circuit TV and perform his impromptu commedy sketch before hundreds of waiting passengers and co-workers?
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