US teen on trial in Bali for mother's murder 'petrified'

Heather Mack and her boyfriend Tommy Schaefer walking to a prison van at Kerobokan prison in Denpasar on Bali island on Feb 4, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
Heather Mack and her boyfriend Tommy Schaefer walking to a prison van at Kerobokan prison in Denpasar on Bali island on Feb 4, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP

DENPASAR, Indonesia (AFP) - A pregnant American teenager on trial in Indonesia for the murder of her mother, whose battered body was found stuffed in a suitcase, says she is "petrified" and insists on her innocence.

In her first in-depth comments since being arrested for her mother's brutal murder, Heather Mack also revealed that she is sharing a cell with 10 other women in a notorious prison on the resort island of Bali.

"I loved my mom with all my heart and miss her every day," the 19-year-old told the Chicago Tribune newspaper. Mack and her boyfriend are from the Chicago area.

Mack, who could face death by firing squad if found guilty of premeditated murder, said she was "petrified. More for my daughter than for me".

Her daughter is due to be born in April.

The body of her mother, 62-year-old Sheila von Wiese Mack, was found rammed in a suitcase in the boot of a taxi outside an exclusive resort on Bali in August.

Her daughter and her daughter's boyfriend, who had been staying with her at the hotel, were arrested shortly afterwards after fleeing to another part of the island.

Mack and her boyfriend, 21-year-old Tommy Schaefer, are facing separate trials in Bali that recommenced this week and could both face the death penalty if found guilty of premeditated murder.

The trials are expected to last several more weeks.

Prosecutors have previously alleged that Schaefer "blindly hit" Von Wiese Mack with a bowl in a fit of rage after she directed a racial slur at him during an argument. Schaefer is black.

The indictment said Mack hid in the bathroom during the attack before the couple stuffed the victim's body in a suitcase.

Mack maintains she is innocent of all charges and is confident her lawyer will prove that in the Denpasar court.

She is engaged in a dispute with a number of US-based lawyers overseeing her trust fund, accusing them of blocking payments to her Indonesian lawyer and "denying me a fair chance of defending myself".

Mack claims access to some of that money has helped improve her treatment in prison, including access to better meals and a bed.

But she was far from content, saying she forced herself to remain positive to avoid slipping into depression.

"The smile is actually a disguise I wear to survive here," she said.