Real Life

Heather Mack had everything… then she helped murder her mum and stuff her body in a suitcase

'Suitcase Killer' Heather Mack was just a teenager when her and her boyfriend committed the evil crime
'Suitcase Killer' Heather Mack pictured with her mother Sheila von Weise-Mack and the bloody suitcase where her body was found
Sheila von Weise-Mack with daughter 'Suitcase Killer' Heather Mack, and the bloody suitcase where she stuffed her mum
Sonny Tumbelaka
  • When Sheila von Wiese-Mack booked a luxury holiday to Bali for her and her daughter, Heather Mack, she had no idea of the horror about to unfold
  • After they had an explosive argument, a taxi driver discovered a blood-stained suitcase in his boot
  • Heather Mack was convicted of helping her then-boyfriend Tommy Schaefer kill her own mum

Heather Mack was destined for a life of privilege.

Her dad, James Mack, was a famous jazz composer and her mum, Sheila von Wiese-Mack, was a socialite and publisher, who was part of an elite social circle.

The family lived in an opulent home and Heather was set to inherit millions of dollars, thanks to a generous family trust fund.

But, in 2006, when Heather was just 10 years old, her dad died from a pulmonary embolism at age 76, while the family was on holiday in Greece.

Sheila von Weise-Mack and her daughter Heather Mack in happier times
Sheila von Weise-Mack and her daughter Heather Mack in happier times

Her entire world imploded and with her grief, she set off down a path of destruction – drinking, taking drugs and going to wild parties.

It strained her relationship with her mum, and they fought often, with police being called to their home after disturbances more than 80 times.

Match made in hell

One wild night out, when Heather Mack was 17, she met Tommy Schaefer, 20.

He was a college dropout and aspiring rap artist – and Heather was attracted to his bad-boy persona.

They soon started dating.

Sheila didn’t like Tommy, which drove an even bigger wedge between her and her teenage daughter.

Heather Mack and Tommy Schaefer were determined to be together
Heather Mack and Tommy Schaefer were determined to be together. Pictured together in an Instagram image.

When Heather fell pregnant aged 18, Sheila was desperate to show her she was going down the wrong path.

As a last-ditch attempt to salvage things, she booked them a luxury holiday to Bali.

They flew business class and checked in to the five-star St Regis Hotel.

It was supposed to be a few weeks in paradise where Heather could reconsider her life choices, but it turned out she had other plans…

Holiday horror

Using her mother’s credit card, Heather booked Tommy an $18,000 business class flight to Bali and a room in their hotel.

When Sheila found out he was there – and she was paying for it – she was furious, exploding at her daughter in the hotel lobby.

Next day, a taxi driver alerted security to a heavy suitcase that had been abandoned in his boot.

At first, he had thought that guests were coming back to collect it but then he’d noticed it was stained with blood.

Inside the case was the mutilated body of Sheila.

The suitcase where the body of Sheila von Weise-Mack was found, displayed at a police station in Bali. Photo: Sonny Tumbelaka/AFP via Getty Images

The 62-year-old had been bludgeoned repeatedly and had suffocated on her own blood.

CCTV footage from the hotel revealed Heather and her boyfriend had rolled the suitcase to the front, and asked a taxi driver to put it in the boot of his car while they returned to their room to collect something.

The couple hadn’t returned so the driver alerted hotel security who called police. Officers then made the gruesome discovery and launched a murder investigation.

Plot to kill

Footage from earlier that day showed Tommy Schaefer approaching Sheila’s room with something – which later turned out to be the metal handle of a decorative fruit bowl – hidden under his shirt.

Next day, the pair were found hiding out at a nearby budget hotel.

At first, they denied the murder, saying Sheila had been killed by a local gang.

But text messages quickly revealed they’d planned to murder Sheila.

Schaefer had texted his cousin Robert Bibbs telling him Heather Mack had offered $74,000 to help kill her mother.

Tommy and Robert then discussed possible ways to do it, including suffocation and drowning.

Heather Mack's mother, Sheila von Weise-Mack was found dead in a suitcase
Heather Mack’s relationship with her mother, Sheila von Weise-Mack, pictured, was strained. Photo: NBC

Money on their minds

The motive appeared to be Heather’s $2.4million future inheritance.

One message from Schaefer to Heather, sent as she boarded her flight to Bali read: I can’t wait to be rich… I seriously can’t wait. I’m so geeked. I’m like thinking of lavish lifestyles.

Texts showed the pair compared themselves to Bonnie and Clyde.

Tommy Schaefer eventually admitted beating Sheila to death with the fruit bowl handle but said he’d acted in self-defence.

He claimed they had argued after she had found out about Heather’s pregnancy and she’d threatened to kill the baby, repeatedly making racial slurs towards him.

Heather admitted her part in the crime, saying she’d helped Schaefer to stuff her mum’s body into a suitcase before they fled.

Many of their claims didn’t stand up in court though. Texts proved the murder was premeditated. And emails from Sheila to her friends showed she knew about the pregnancy before the holiday.

How long was Heather Mack sentenced to?

In April 2015, Heather Mack, 19, was convicted of being an accessory to murder and given a 10-year prison sentence.

Tommy Schaefer, 21, was convicted of premeditated murder and given 18 years.

The couple escaped the harshest Balinese punishment of death by firing squad, because the judge didn’t want their baby to be raised without parents.

During the trial, Heather gave birth to a baby girl, Stella, and had no choice but to raise her daughter in her cell.

Heather Mack holding her baby in a cell in Bali.

“I don’t regret killing my mother”

Later, Robert Ryan Bibbs, 26, was sentenced to nine years in prison on one count of conspiracy to commit foreign murder of a US citizen.

In 2017, a video of Heather finally confessing to the crime was uploaded to YouTube. In it, she says, “I don’t regret killing my mother.”

She added that she did regret “trapping an innocent person into this”, referring to Schaefer.

In another twist, just days later, Heather Mack claimed the confession was false, and she’d been coerced into it a year earlier by Schaefer.

She told prison officials she didn’t know how the video ended up online. 

Tommy Schaefer was convicted along with girlfriend Heather Mack. Photo: Sonny Tumbelaka/AFP via Getty Images)

Where is Heather Mack now?

On October 29, 2021, Heather Mack, 26, was released after seven years, due to good behaviour.

She was deported and the moment she touched down in Chicago a few days later, she was arrested again and charged with conspiracy to kill in a foreign country and conspiracy to commit foreign murder of a US national.

Heather Mack initially pleaded not guilty, but later accepted a plea deal, admitting the charges. She faces up to 28 years in jail.

Her daughter is now in the custody of Heather’s cousin.

According to reports, Schaefer, who is still in prison, is a born-again Christian who has baptised other prisoners.

He could face the same charges when he is eventually released and returned to US soil.

“I used to sit at home watching crime shows on TV with my mum and remember asking myself, ‘How is it possible to kill someone? How do they do it?’ And now, here I am, in jail for murder in Bali. It seems surreal,” he says.

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