LONDON, Ont. — Tabitha Ritchie longs for the four seasons, driving, her friends and her cellphone.
Most of all she misses her two sons and her mother in London, Ont., while she serves a sentence for drug-trafficking in Bogota, Colombia.
“I would do anything, accept anything and everything, just to be able to come home at this point,” Ritchie says by Skype from where she’s serving a four-year sentence for drug-smuggling under house arrest.
Ritchie, 29, made international headlines 10 months ago when the London social worker was detained at Bogota airport with a fake pregnant belly full of cocaine strapped to her mid-section.
The images of her with a shawl over her face and the belly set beside her were published around the world. But Ritchie says she was forced by a group of Colombian men to smuggle the drugs and was held hostage, raped twice and denied food until she agreed to do it.
She says she went to Colombia last August with two men she thought were friends who had offered her a no-strings vacation that would allow her to escape stresses at home.
She had been facing gun charges with an ex-boyfriend — they’ve been withdrawn for lack of evidence — and had extricated herself from the relationship.
The trip sounded like a cure to all ills. She didn’t want anyone to know where she was going before boarding a flight in Toronto on Aug. 6.
The first two weeks, she says, were wonderful and the cultural experience she’d hoped for.
Two days before she was to return home, she and one of her companions went to Cucuta, a city near the Venezuelan border where her host said he had to meet friends.
It was there she says she was told she couldn’t leave unless she took almost two kilograms of cocaine back to Canada.
Ritchie says she refused, and was held hostage in the house by her former friend and four men.
Her resistance to the plan ebbed three weeks later, she says, after she had been attacked, starved and told she could be forced into prostitution should she stay in Colombia.
Once she relented, she was shown the fake belly and a couple days later she was to fly to Toronto with the cocaine strapped inside the belly.
Even at the airport, Ritchie says, she tried to get out of her fix. In a washroom, shortly before the flight to Toronto, she tried to get the fake belly off, but it had been taped on too tightly.