A drugs smuggler who has spent eight years in Thailand’s infamous ‘Bangkok Hilton’ prison has been allowed home to serve the rest of his sentence in Britain. Michael Connell, 27, from Bury, was sentenced to 99 years in prison after trying to smuggle thousands of ecstasy tablets though Bangkok airport. His sentence was reduced to 30 years and then to 20 years on appeal, and since then he has been locked up in the Bang Kwang Prison, where up to 20 inmates share a small concrete cell.
Now he has been allowed to return to Britain, and is being held in a London jail. He has 12 years to serve but will be eligible for parole in six years. His family say they are delighted – but they want the rest of his sentence to be scrapped. They say their son, who has learning difficulties, was under pressure to pay off a loan when, aged just 19, he tried to smuggle 3,400 ecstasy tablets into Thailand from a flight out of Manchester. The drugs were picked up by an X-ray machine after being hidden in tubs of body lotion in his luggage.
His dad Derek, 56, told the BBC’s Inside Out North West: “Michael committed a crime, he never denied it and he held his hands up. He said he was stupid, he wishes he’d never done it and he’s getting on with it and I think the sentence he has done is long enough. He’s done eight years in what is probably the worst prison in the world. I am going to do whatever I can to get his sentence reduced, or quashed, if I can and get him out.”
Michael was arrested at Bangkok Airport (Don Muang) on 10th November 2003. He was 19 years old. He was sentenced the following year on 23rd March 2004 to 99 years. Michael was initially held at Klong Prem but was moved to Bang Kwang after his sentence. Michael was featured in the BBC documentary “The Real Bangkok Hilton”. He is currently being held at Wandsworth prison in south-west London and his father is expecting him to be transferred to Whitemore in Cambridgeshire.
Sources: Manchester Evening News and BBC