True story of Blacktown car salesman's stay in Bali's hellhole Kerobokan prison

Bali's notorious Kerobokan prison, which housed Schapelle Corby for almost a decade, is about to be exposed as a cesspool of corruption and lawlessness in a new book.

Hellhole: Paul Conibeer shared a cell in Kerobokan prison with 51 men. Photo: Supplied

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Hellhole: Paul Conibeer shared a cell in Kerobokan prison with 51 men. Photo: Supplied Read more:

I Survived Kerobokan, by Australian resident Paul Conibeer, describes a jail where some guards were willing to turn a blind eye to illegal activity as long as they were paid off.

Conibeer, who spent 10 months inside the notorious prison, describes how pizzas and prostitutes would be delivered to cells if bribes were paid.

He writes of meeting the ''petite and quietly spoken'' Corby, saying she ''reminded me of a fragile doll that could break at any moment''.

''Kerobokan is one of the only jails in the world where the prisoners are in control,'' Conibeer writes.

In June 2012, the then 43-year-old Blacktown car salesman headed for the island paradise to party and ''disappear into the alcohol-fuelled haze of the Bali bar scene for a couple of months'', as he had done more than 30 times before.

By August, following a series of unfortunate events - including being robbed outside a nightclub which led to a dispute over an unpaid hotel bill — the New Zealand-born Conibeer found himself in ''Hotel K'', surrounded by rapists, murderers and paedophiles. He shared a 33-man cell with 51 other men for 10 months before returning to Australia.

Conibeer has now settled in Queensland and his story will be published by New Holland in April.

''I wanted to write this book to warn people that the real Bali is not the one advertised in the tourist brochures. It remains dangerous and corrupt: a trap for the young, the naive and those, like me, who wanted to have a good time at the expense of common sense.''

Conibeer details sharing Christmas lunch with a zombie-like Corby and befriending some members of the Bali Nine.

''You don't have to worry about this hotel. It's free,'' Corby said to him when they first met.

''When I spoke to Schapelle at the Christmas party four months later, she was like an empty vessel. She was a thousand miles away,'' he says of their later meeting.

In his worst moments, Conibeer says he nursed a dying man and faced the threat of being put in a cell with no toilet where you have to ''crap into a plastic bag'' .

He writes about eating snake stew after one slithered into his cell. He describes his toenails rotting and falling off one by one.

But he also reveals a jail where international inmates — known as ''bules'', the Indonesian word for Westerners — can live a lifestyle he calls ''luxury, Kerobokan-style''.

Such prisoners are readily able to access contraband smartphones, internet, secreted laptops and plasma televisions.

''There were drugs all through the prison,'' he says. ''People were tripping out on LSD or magic mushrooms and smoking weed until they were stoned blind.''

During his incarceration, Conibeer says he was close to members of the Bali Nine, including Andrew Chan, Scott Rush, Renae Lawrence, Si Yi Chen and Matthew Norman, bonding with many of them over shared experiences of living in western Sydney.

He said he had mixed emotions upon release: ''I formed really good bonds - it was hard for me to go, as I was leaving them all behind.

''I still hear the rats at night and I've had premonitions about ending up back in there.

''But I actually grew to value my time in Kerobokan. Somewhat bizarrely, I even grew to like it.

''I learned that there are really two of you in prison: the person you truly are and the person you think you are. Only one survives.''


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