Drug-smuggler Gregory returns to Thailand and is deported
Briton pays unexpected visit to country where she was sentenced to death
Friday 04 December 2009
Sandra Gregory, who was sentenced to death in Thailand in 1993 for heroin trafficking, has been deported after trying to enter the country.
The 44-year-old from West Yorkshire, who was pardoned nearly a decade ago, has campaigned to alert young people to the perils of getting involved in drugs while travelling. It is understood that she had planned to visit former fellow inmates at the Klong Prem Central Prison, known as the Bangkok Hilton.
She was detained by airport officials in the Thai capital after apparently encountering visa difficulties. In a text message sent to a friend before being put on a plane back to Britain she said: "I haven't eaten or slept for days. They're telling me I don't get to choose." Ms Gregory, who studied for a degree in geography at Oxford University after her release in 2000, wanted to see a South African friend who was still serving her sentence at the jail. Ms Gregory helped raise money to build a hospice to care for hundreds of inmates who die each year from Aids and tuberculosis.
Susan May, a British friend who she met after being transferred to serve the remainder of her sentence in a British prison, said Ms Gregory had been determined to return to Thailand and believed she would be allowed to re-enter.
"She had a few ghosts to lay to rest and she loves the country and the people," Ms May said. "She was very upset about what she did and is very remorseful. She is feeling very emotional at the moment and very upset. She is horrified that this is in the news." Ms May said she had been particularly worried about one woman at the jail. She had planned to travel around the country which she first visited as a gap year traveller and part-time English teacher in 1991. Her conviction was out of character.
After two years in Thailand, where she contracted dengue fever, she was unable to work and had no money. She was arrested while attempting to board a flight to Tokyo carrying 3.1oz (86.9g) of heroin in a condom inside her body. She said she had been persuaded to carry the drugs for £1,000 which she hoped would pay for her fare back to the UK.
The case drew international attention and her sentence was eventually commuted to 25 years in prison after she admitted the charge. She served four and a half years at Klong Prem before being transferred to the UK to serve the remaining 21 years, until the Thai king granted her a pardon. Ms Gregory now works for a co-operative food wholesaler near her home in Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire. In 2002 she published a book called Forget You Had a Daughter.
The Foreign Office said it did not know why she had been denied entry to Thailand. Tom Lawson, deputy chief executive of the charity Prisoners Abroad, said individual countries varied in their policies towards ex-offenders depending on the terms of their deportation orders. "Most people do find Thailand to be quite an easy country to return to. I don't know why she has found it so difficult but perhaps that is due to the notoriety of her case."
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