The return home of Australian model and convicted drug user Michelle Leslie is taking some sensational twists, from land to sea and back to land again. Her arrival from Singapore early today on a Qantas flight attracted a massive media pack at Sydney airport where she offered a few words, but not too many because she was wrung out. Oh yeah, and we almost forgot, there was some talk here and there of her story being sold.

Dressed in her alternative Muslim blue jeans and black jacket, the model told journalists she was “tired and exhausted.”

“The events of the last few months have just really turned my life upside down,” she said. “I’m so happy to be home and see my family and (boyfriend) Scott (Sutton) and my friends. I’d like to thank everybody that stood by me and supported me while I’ve been away.”

The brief media stand-up was abruptly halted when Leslie refused to respond to questions from Seven’s hard-nosed reporter Chris Reason about suggestions that her conversion to Islam was a sham. She said “thank you” before refusing to take questions.

Meanwhile, tempers in the media pack had flared leading up to Leslie’s emergence from the Customs area. A larger-than-normal contingent of photographers was upsetting TV crews with a vocal protest eventually coming from Ten’s John Hill, according to one witness. Leslie was flanked by a healthy contingent of Australian Protective Service officers as she entered the arrivals hall.

One high profile TV network reporter told Crikey that Leslie was escorted with her entourage, including spokesman Sean Mulcahy, to three black 7-series BMWs with black tinted windows in which Team Leslie attempted its getaway. The group was slowed down when Leslie lost one of her shoes while being pursued by the media throng.

The convoy spent the next two hours circling the city while deciding what to do before moving on to Balmain where the chase went from land to sea. By this stage, only a few hardened stalwarts were left from the media pack.

“She turned and smiled as she did the 100 yard dash down to a water taxi and made her getaway,” one of them revealed to Crikey. It appears Network Ten, banned by Mulcahy after a legal dispute over an earlier report, obtained footage of the chase right to the water’s edge.

It was like striking gold when Mulcahy answered his phone in the middle of the chase before abruptly having to end the call. “Mate, I’m in a paparazzi chase, I can’t talk at the moment,” he told Crikey. But if escaping her media pursuers has left the option open for Leslie to sell her story, it may well be that only one party remains in the bidding – New Idea.

Confirmation by both Seven and Nine that they won’t pay for her story should be considered alongside the fact that in four days’ time – with 60 Minutes, A Current Affair and Today Tonight all finishing for the year, there is nowhere on TV to place the story.

But Seven’s News and Public Affairs boss Peter Meakin explained there was still time for either network to broadcast a story, but apparently little will to do so. “If we’d been interested in paying, we could have had the story to air before the end of survey,” Meakin told Crikey. “The key factor is that TT no longer pays for stories. Not even stories with people who aren’t convicted criminals.”