Karm Gilespie has only a few days to appeal against a death sentence handed down to him by a court in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou.
The Australian is sitting on death row for allegedly trying to sneak more than 7.5 kilograms of methamphetamine on an international flight from Guangzhou Baiyun Airport.
Australian officials say they’re doing everything they can to help the 56-year-old father, who has been locked in a Chinese prison since 2013.
His friends appear to have been blindsided with the news that Gilespie had been sitting in a jail cell for six-and-a-half years.
Roger James Hamilton couldn’t have been prepared for the shock after hearing the man he had taught a Wealth Dynamics Masters course to seven years ago was about to die for a drug smuggling offence.
“We spent a few years trying to find out how he could disappear so suddenly and so entirely,” Mr Hamilton, a New York-based entrepreneur, wrote in a Facebook post.
“After that, we resigned ourselves to the idea that he had left because he wanted to start a new life.”
He is desperately hoping Gilespie’s life “does not become a casualty of the conflict”, referring to Australia’s trade war with China following Scott Morrison’s repeated calls for an independent inquiry into Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus.
So, who exactly is Gilespie?
For more than two decades, he worked as a professional actor, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Gilespie graced our television screens in the 1990s as a pyromaniac on popular police drama series Blue Heelers.
He also appeared in stage productions including that of 1982 film The Man From Snowy River.
Up until the early 2000s, Gilespie spent more than 15 years working as a life guard and swimming teacher.
He left acting in 2009 and turned his attention to investing, motivational speaking and business coaching, posting videos on building wealth and finding motivation.
The year of his arrest, Gilespie launched Act Your Life, a high-performance coaching franchise that teaches people how to “create a believable and honest image by creating your true character”.
“Actors learn to deliver with massive confidence, power and influence – now it’s your turn or your company’s turn to ACT YOUR LIFE,” he wrote on his LinkedIn profile.
Originally from Melbourne, Gilespie completed a Bachelor’s degree in Education and studied acting, dance, English and media.
He wrote on LinkedIn: “We are all Actors (as Shakespeare asserted) and we all walk upon the stage of life. You can chose (sic) your role … so why would you chose (sic) anything other than the main role in your own life?”
He was sentenced in the Guangzhou Intermediate People’s Court on Saturday, and given just 10 days to appeal.
Mr Hamilton said a friend wrote to him on Sunday, after he learned of Gilespie’s death sentence, saying he was duped into carrying the drugs by investors.
“He was over there (in Guangzhou) meeting investors for a deal. They asked him to carry presents back to their partners in Australia, which included handbags. The drugs were in the handbags. It was a setup,” Mr Hamilton wrote.
“This is not a man that deserves to lose his life.”
Another friend, Andy Greenhill, expressed his sadness and shock at what has happened.
“The Karm I met would never get knowingly involved in such a crime and does not deserve such a severe penalty for his trusting nature being taken advantage of,” Mr Greenhill posted on Facebook.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has rejected assertions the death penalty may be politically motivated.
“What we need to do is be very careful, and what we need to do is make sure that anything that’s said about this matter doesn’t affect Mr Gilespie’s cause and cases in any way, shape or form,” he told the ABC on Monday.
“We want to make sure that we give him every available assistance and we are, through the proper processes.”