Thai inquiry over woman's arrest

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Authorities in Thailand have started investigating a claim by a 55- year-old British woman who says she had to pay more than pounds 5,000 to Thai police over a trumped-up drugs charge.

British police this week finished taking statements from Shirlee Cook, a grandmother from Ealing, West London, who claims she was falsely arrested and beaten up by police in Thailand while on holiday last year. The statements are to be passed via Interpol to the Thai authorities for investigation.

Mrs Cook says she won her freedom after five days in jail only by pleading guilty and paying what the police demanded. She insists she was innocent of possessing any drugs. Her anger at her detention has been fuelled by the discovery that the actual fine for the offence was just pounds 25.

Both the Foreign Office and Thai officials have promised to investigate.

Mrs Cook said yesterday: "I'm pleased something seems to be happening at last and they seem to be taking this seriously. I'm hoping that they will get to the bottom of what actually happened so that nobody has to go through what I went through."

Her ordeal began on the last night of a two-week trip with Airtours, one of Britain's biggest travel firms, to Thailand last November when she and her husband were sitting at a bar inPatong, northern Thailand.

They were arrested and searched at the police station. Police produced a small amount of hashish which they claimed to have found on Mrs Cook.

She spent five days in jail before appearing in court. Mr Cook returned to Britain to raise the money demanded by police for his wife's release.

Back in Britain Mrs Cook was able to have an entry in her passport translated and realised she had been fined pounds 25. She believes she was framed by the police and should not have had to pay for her freedom.