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Australian on death row in China fell for Thai woman went to Asia and went 'into business' with her

Australian man Karm Gilespie had not been heard of since December 2013, when he was arrested at a Hong Kong airport with more than 7.5kgs of methamphetamine in his luggage

Australian man Karm Gilespie had not been heard of since December 2013, when he was arrested at a Hong Kong airport with more than 7.5kgs of methamphetamine in his luggage

An Australian actor sentenced to death in China for drug smuggling moved to Asia to ‘go into business’ with a Thai woman he fell in love with, his long-time pen-pal says. 

Few of Karm Gilespie’s friends or family members knew where he had been for the past seven years until it was revealed last week he was languishing in a Chinese jail.

He was arrested in December 2013 at a Hong Kong airport with 7.5kgs of meth in his luggage, before being sentenced to death by the Guangzhou Intermediate People’s Court on June 10 this year. 

A friend of Mr Gilespie says the former TV actor fell in love with a Thai woman before moving across the world to be with her.

He notified his Facebook friends that he was in a new relationship on July 20 2013, just months before he ‘disappeared’.

American woman Jill Parris, who had been pen pals with Mr Gilespie since they were 13, said the last time she spoke to him in 2013 he was gushing about his new partner.

‘I received a phone call from Karm and he was over the moon in love with a new woman, he was so excited about going on a business trip with to Thailand,’ she wrote. 

The former actor notified his friends on Facebook that he was in a new relationship just months before he vanished

The former actor notified his friends on Facebook that he was in a new relationship just months before he vanished

‘I was reserved with my concerns as I didn’t want to rain on his excitement-parade.’

She said the phone call was mysterious and had worried her. 

Over the phone Mr Gilespie had gushed about his new girlfriend, telling Ms Parris how ‘fabulous, smart and wise’ she was. 

Ms Parris made her friend ‘promise to get in touch’ when he got to Thailand because she was concerned. 

‘The man never not called or wrote to me in the 38 past years of our lives… so when he didn’t get back in touch I was immediately scared it was due to something beyond his control,’ Ms Parris said.  

‘It just was not in his character to not communicate with me nor was he found anywhere on the internet.

‘He vanished.’ 

Mr Gilespie had been married twice before running off to Asia with his new girlfriend.

The second wife and his two children are believed to make up the small group who were initially informed about his arrest.

His friend Roger Hamilton (left) posted a statement on Facebook telling how he had last seen Mr Gilespie (second from left) in 2013 at a financial forum (pictured), before he 'disappeared'

His friend Roger Hamilton (left) posted a statement on Facebook telling how he had last seen Mr Gilespie (second from left) in 2013 at a financial forum (pictured), before he ‘disappeared’

Australian man Karm Gilespie has been sentenced to death in China for drug smuggling, almost seven years after he was arrested

Australian man Karm Gilespie has been sentenced to death in China for drug smuggling, almost seven years after he was arrested

A government source told The Australian before Mr Gilespie’s fate was made public, no family or friend had looked into it since he vanished.

‘There’s no one out there batting for him,’ the source said. 

Ms Parris said from her home in Stockton, California, that her pen pal was always reaching for a better life. 

Throughout high school he dreamed of being a professional AFL player before moving into acting, but after 20 years he grew tired of not being taken seriously. 

Mr Gilespie had a recurring role on popular 1990s drama Blue Heelers before moving into wealth and financial management in 2009.

The new career path led him to spend an increased amount of time in Asia, away from his hometown in rural Victoria. 

Friends expressed their shock at the news and told how they had been trying to find out information about his whereabouts since 2013 without luck.

American entrepreneur Roger Hamilton posted a statement on Facebook telling how he had last seen Mr Gilespie in 2013 at a financial forum, before he ‘disappeared’. 

‘This is a photo of Karm Gilespie (in the red shirt) graduating from our WD Masters 7 years ago. Soon after, Karm disappeared,’ Mr Hamilton wrote. 

The news comes at a time when diplomatic ties between Australia and China are at an almost all time low, after Prime Minister Scott Morrison (pictured with foreign minister Marise Payne) called for an inquiry into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic

The news comes at a time when diplomatic ties between Australia and China are at an almost all time low, after Prime Minister Scott Morrison (pictured with foreign minister Marise Payne) called for an inquiry into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic

Mr Gilespie (right) had a recurring role on popular 1990s drama Blue Heelers before moving into wealth and financial management, which led him to spend an increased amount of time in Asia, away from his hometown of Melbourne

Mr Gilespie (right) had a recurring role on popular 1990s drama Blue Heelers before moving into wealth and financial management, which led him to spend an increased amount of time in Asia, away from his hometown of Melbourne

‘He had been an active member of our community, encouraging others to be the best they could be. He was always there for others, which was why it was so strange that he suddenly disappeared.

‘He had been an active member of our community, encouraging others to be the best they could be. He was always there for others, which was why it was so strange that he suddenly disappeared.

‘Today I heard the news of what had happened to him. He has been in a Chinese jail for 7 years and has now been sentenced to death.

‘This is an Australian citizen who has been kept secretly in jail by a foreign government for 7 years before being sentenced to death with no due process.’  

Ms Parris said she cannot believe her former pen pal had ended up in jail in China.

‘I am in total emotional pain,’ Ms Parris wrote to Facebook when she found out about the fate of her friend.

‘I have been secretly searching for my childhood friend who suddenly vanished from existence During the Christmas time of 2013!’ 

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham says the sentencing of an Australian to death in China for drug smuggling should not be linked to the ongoing friction between the countries.

Chinese President Xi Jinping was angered by the calls for an inquiry into his nation's handling of the virus, which is believed to have originated in Wuhan

Chinese President Xi Jinping was angered by the calls for an inquiry into his nation’s handling of the virus, which is believed to have originated in Wuhan

‘This is very distressing for Mr Gilespie and his loved ones, and our government will continue to provide consular assistance,’ Senator Birmingham told Sky News’ Sunday Agenda program.

Asked whether he thought the sentence was linked to the ongoing political row between China and Australia he said: ‘We shouldn’t necessarily view it as such.’

Senator Birmingham said Gilespie still has a 10-day window to appeal the verdict.

He said Australia condemns the death penalty in all circumstances across all countries.

‘This is a reminder to all Australians … that Australian laws don’t apply overseas, that other countries have much harsher penalties, particularly in relation to matters such as drug trafficking,’ the minister said.

Senior Labor frontbencher Chris Bowen said Mr Gilespie’s sentence was ‘deeply concerning’.

Mr Bowen said drug smuggling was a serious crime, ‘but the death penalty is never the right answer’.

The Guangzhou (pictured) Intermediate People's Court handed down the sentence on June 10

The Guangzhou (pictured) Intermediate People’s Court handed down the sentence on June 10

Mr Bowen said both sides of politics opposed the death penalty.

‘The government will have our full support … and we trust and expect they are making the appropriate representations quietly behind the scenes,’ he told reporters in Sydney.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade told Daily Mail Australia they were providing consular assistance.       

‘We are deeply saddened to hear of the verdict made in his case. Australia opposes the death penalty, in all circumstances for all people,’ a spokesperson said. 

‘We support the universal abolition of the death penalty and are committed to pursuing this goal through all the avenues available to us.’ 

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