Drug Smuggler Michael Connell Back in the UK

January 23, 2012
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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

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63 Responses to Drug Smuggler Michael Connell Back in the UK

  1. January 24, 2012 at 9:39 pm

    The punishment does not fit the crime!!! This is inhumane

    • john boy
      September 5, 2012 at 7:19 pm

      He should rot in hell. He is a drug dealer.

      • Andre
        September 19, 2012 at 7:55 pm

        YOU should rot in hell john boy!! and you propably will.

        • Max Morris
          September 24, 2012 at 6:07 pm

          What a sad sick comment.

      • sonia
        December 7, 2012 at 11:19 am

        i don’t think you should give any comments,
        who are you to judge

      • William
        August 17, 2013 at 5:47 pm

        You haven’t thought this one through john boy.The REAL criminals are those who destroy jobs and devastate once former proud communities,which have now degenerated into drug and alchohol abuse areas.Where planned mass immigration has forced what jobs that do exist, to offer wages barely able to sustain families with ‘No Hours’ contacts, pure exploitation.

      • Neville
        January 15, 2014 at 10:25 pm

        Drug pushers should “rot in hell”. That’s a given.
        Michael Connell though was young and in a desperate situation and made 1 hell of a stupid mistake. Still, Michael has done his time and I hope that for the sake of his family that he is released from prison shortly so that his family can be reunited and so he can get on with his life and contribute to society in a positive way.
        Nev
        http://www.mycaminosantiago.com

    • sonia
      December 7, 2012 at 11:21 am

      all british people must to unite and help to british people…it shame if we can’t do nothing, come british people ..unite

    • Margaret
      March 24, 2013 at 10:33 am

      Great to hear Michael is back in Britain. I watched the documentary a long time ago and I felt so bad for him. A stupid mistake but enough he has done his time.
      Good luck in the future

    • timothy rogers
      August 10, 2013 at 10:20 pm

      You don’t know what you are talking about. I saw Michael and other prisoners in Bangkok after sentence and although I am anti drugs, its a long long sentence and very poor conditions. Depression and despair are the worst afflictions. There are some prisoners who deserve all the treatment and long sentences, I could name a few unrepentant souls, but Michael isn’t one of them. His biggest crime was stupidity and his second biggest supporting Man U. He deserves freedom now so he can re-build. Temptation is all about money!

    • scott walsh
      November 29, 2013 at 11:46 am

      made a huge mistake would of been caught selling the pills in thailand they would of grassed him out sooner or later watched him on the the doco felt so sorry for him delighted he got out of that place still sane its a nightmare in that place,he,s on easy street now but he,s lucky if he was thai he,d of got a death sentence or would never be seen again should write a book so other muppets don,t make the same mistake

    • Mr Mc
      February 17, 2014 at 12:36 am

      i bet hes loving the clean uk prisons food etc

  2. jean
    February 3, 2012 at 3:06 am

    Hi Michael,
    I saw you on our TV and almost cried for you, the evil horror and squalor of those prisons I believe can be a nightmare. I read a book which haunted me for weeks called DAMAGE DONE also of a similar case.
    A week ago an Austrian got arrested for drugs and I
    am praying for this young man that he also manages to serve his sentance in his own country. I saw on
    the news of an South African African girl who also
    got caught with drugs in her dread locks, she looked
    so young and of course she committed a crime and got
    caught. I know drugs are very tempting as the money is so lucrative but the risk and damage that is done
    to the end user is irrepairable, so please warm all
    the readers and if something you can do is to campaign that drugs be avoided.
    Thanks and God bless until you get out.

    • Richard Barrow
      February 3, 2012 at 9:25 am

      Thanks Jean for your comment. Surprisingly, not all Westerners are happy about being transferred back to their home country. Some I spoke to said that they were better off in Thai prisons. At least there they were left alone to wander around the grounds during the day and that the food in Thai prisons was a lot better.

    • Dominic
      July 28, 2013 at 9:59 am

      Most of us don’t smuggle drugs. I don’t empathize with these guys. They are willing to deal in death for dollars pounds da or baht. Why whine?

    • DLK
      November 15, 2013 at 10:31 pm

      The other gentleman in the BBC special has also been released, he is a free man though and spent much more time there than Michael did.

  3. marie
    February 4, 2012 at 9:30 am

    lsaw michael on tv in big trouble in thailand l go over there once a year for a holiday and to see my son who lives out there well lm just writeing to say bet must have been very hard for you been just 19 and haveing to ajust to the thai way of living l know lve read some storys and some dont get out a live but lm glad you are home take care marie xx

  4. Daniel
    February 4, 2012 at 11:54 pm

    Sorry if I am missing the point here!This guy was not knocking on doors for the Red Cross was he?
    The drug industry has a law of averages and the mules have a reasonably high percentage of always getting caught.Michael has what he deserves since we all know in our society the damage drugs cause to family’s and the wretched souls using them.
    Fortunately he has been stopped as many are in Asian country’s and serves a purpose of education to any wood be dumb person thinking of a career as a drug mule.

  5. May 8, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    In all honesty if you cant do the time don’t do the crime, if you do get involved in drug dealing in another country you should be penalized by their system, everyone know Thailand has a tough drug law so you cant say you didn’t know, and most people know the harsh conditions of Thailand’s prison system, when I someone offering poor man in those awful prisons, remember prisons are supposed to show you you shouldn’t get involved in crime, not like in UK where they are better than holiday camps

    • Nicola Jane
      June 4, 2012 at 10:52 pm

      Dave, i totally agree with what your saying. But shouldnt prisons be about rehabilitation? how can a prison that offers such terrible conditions rehabilitate anyone? People should have the option to change. I read Damage Done where he had knew someone who had done his time in a Thai prison and came out with HIV from the poor conditions he had to endure.. surley thats not a justice system!!!!

  6. Tony Bunker
    May 8, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    Its not a small amount we’re talking here. 3,400 tablets. A pound each in England, 500 baht in Thailand. He knew the score. Maybe thinking about the 1.7 million baht to be made..

  7. ben
    July 30, 2012 at 8:13 am

    Just seen on big trouble in Thailand.
    No pity at all.
    He admits to doing for his own reasons,not for a loan repayment!
    It only takes a dodgy pill to take a life!
    Maybe his family should think about what could of happened to many other people.

  8. ben
    July 30, 2012 at 8:16 am

    And for the record I would rather go to a Thai jail than an English one.
    They ain’t holiday camps for every tom dick n Harry.
    You have to be a certain kind of individual to succeed in jail!

  9. Pete
    August 4, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    He should have gone to prison but the sentence he got is far too long, he was only 19 at the time. I really think age should be taken into consideration when sentencing criminals. If a 40 year old had done the same thing I would think he deserved it as he should know better but at 19 we make mistakes and can change later in life.

    • Dominic
      July 28, 2013 at 9:56 am

      Why should 19 years be allowed to deal in death?

  10. anna walker
    September 18, 2012 at 10:17 pm

    I am so pleased Michael is back in this country.
    I am just sorry that he has not been released from prison. He is the same age as my own son and over the years I have thought of Michael often and hoped he was coping with being in prison in Thailand.
    I send this with all love.

    • Matt
      October 9, 2012 at 12:27 pm

      Why free him? He’s a self-confessed drug smuggler.

      Would you be ok with freeing him if it was the other way around? If a Thai got caught smuggling drugs into the UK? If that Thai person got sent back to a Thai prison after a couple of years to serve the rest of their sentence, and got let out immediately on return, would you be happy with that? Even though the drugs that they smuggled could have been taken by British children, teenagers and adults, getting them addicted, possibly endangering their lives?

      Sickening hypocrisy.

      • jon
        December 7, 2012 at 12:01 pm

        who ever thinks this boy shouldnt be freed yous are sick twisted people every one makes mistakes his already done enough time his WELL paid for wat his done he was only 19 young boy still learning for all yous people who thinks he shouldnt be freed picture that being your son or loved one would u still say the same ??????

  11. Max Morris
    September 24, 2012 at 6:07 pm

    Free him now.

  12. kenny hawk
    October 19, 2012 at 8:41 am

    Its a hard (if not impossible) situation for a “normal” person so understand, so naturally there will be be alot of different opinions on an extreme subject like this.
    My 2 cents on the subject is as follows.
    Normally i 100% agree in the fact, do the time if you do crime. BUT! I also believe in bettering yourself so you can come home later in life and be a productive member of society. By getting life in jail, there is no chance of bettering yourself, and i honoustly think that a teenager 19 year old, do not understand the seriousness of the situation, and/or the problems he gives to the drugusers who he were planning on selling the drugs to.

    He did 9 years in bangkwang. Its a shithole, and i think he should be free now! He is still young, and have a chance to make something good out of him self. Not end up like a loser,, because he spend his entire youth in jail.

    Best of luck.

  13. Slarty Bartfast
    October 29, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    We in the world have a serious social problem with illegal drugs.
    The more we fight it, the worse it seems to become.
    The tragedy is that there are people making milliards on this business and they are often the very people who insist we escalate the war on drugs.
    This chap is himself a victim of the lucrative nature of the illegal economy.
    If you break the law, any law, you have to be punished but within reason and not inhumanely. If drugs were not illegal but CONTROLLED a lot of the damage they do would dissapear. Same as alcohol prohibition in the USA.
    We will never overcome evil by becoming evil ourselves.

  14. Lita
    October 30, 2012 at 11:29 am

    “He is still young, and have a chance to make something good out of him self.”

    He already had a chance to make something good of himself. He didn’t choose to do that! He chose to make a drug smugglar of himself. It’s a shame, isn’t it?

  15. steve powell
    November 19, 2012 at 8:40 pm

    Fair play to you Michael… You kept your head down and survived 9 years in the worlds toughest prison. An offence of the same kind in this country (England) would probably see you sentenced to 3 years of which you would have served 18 months and been set free over 7 years ago. In my opinion,,,, and it is exactly that, my opinion, you should be set free before the rest of your youth is wasted and while you still have a chance to turn things around and be a productive member of society. The Prison Service Policy Statement says that it exists to serve the courts by helping people in custody to lead law abiding and useful lives in custody and after release. JOB DONE. Id bet my house that given the opportunity, you would never offend again. Good Luck Michael………..

  16. neil wynn
    December 2, 2012 at 12:02 am

    any one know what happened to the other english guy on that programme micheal was in ? his name was andrew hawk

    • lee mays
      January 15, 2013 at 12:27 am

      hello neil wynn.yes andrew hawk is still held in bang kwang in refuses to come home choosin to finish his sentence in thailand..

      • Rich
        January 26, 2013 at 1:04 am

        is hauke still in. i saw him in bang kwang early 2000

        • DLK
          November 15, 2013 at 10:36 pm

          Nope release early this year and doing as well considering his time spent. He was pardoned…so he is a free man…YEAH!!!

        • dlk
          November 26, 2013 at 6:19 am

          Andrew went home in Feb 2013 and is a free man in England now. He was pardoned this year.

      • DK
        November 18, 2013 at 2:29 am

        He is now home a free man in England. Was pardoned in February 2014.

  17. sonia
    December 7, 2012 at 11:22 am

    free to british people…

  18. jon
    December 7, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    he was young we all make mistakes, over here for first offence he would of got a couple of years so doin 9 years over there probably felt like a life sentence ,every one deserves a second chance i fill really sorry for him but he must be a very strong man he got on with it done his time that must of been hard so well done for that,there are people out there who rape young children and get less than that so why dont all use people who think micheal shouldnt be free go find a nonse case to pick on and say them scum bags shouldnt be freed

  19. Alex Coates
    December 9, 2012 at 11:57 am

    Hope they quash your sentence and you get out soon Michael. The FCO should do more than just repatriate you. It’s a travesty that you are still incarcerated after 8 years for one misguided mistake as a 19 year old. Best wishes.

  20. December 11, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    hope he gets out soon.the crime he committed was pretty bad but he was only 19 and he could change in later life. hope he sees all the nice comment some people wrote.

  21. givinit
    January 1, 2013 at 7:25 am

    Before long all drugs will be decriminalised and all prisoners held for dealing or smuggling will be released, the world over. It’s an easy vote winning punishment for what is frankly a once removed crime. There’s a difference between concealment of contraband and staving someone’s head in, for instance, but often not in law. They do it for the money and the money is there because of a number of people are bored, depressed or desperate enough to want to shut their brain down by any means. However, they’d do it with glue or cough mixture if they couldn’t get anything else. Ecstacy has kiiled fewer people than elderly drivers. The chief scientific advisor to the UK government said it’s safer than horseriding, then he had to go for political reasons. The monk is just doing a job with an orange outfit on. Almost every man in thailand is a monk at one time or another. Men used to become vicars in droves when it was a viable alternative to working for a living, doesn’t mean they knew what they were talking about, they were just reading from the script. For me, a much bigger crime is coming through a compulsory western education system,Yet still lack the rudimentary grasp of english with which to articulate the venting of your dim-witted spleen. That’s tax payers money you’ve wasted, it could’ve been spent on rehab.

  22. January 6, 2013 at 9:58 pm

    Bang Kwang the bangkok hilton BBC documentary

  23. john
    January 19, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    I doubt he was going to make a lot of money i guess he did
    it for a friend on the islands who was going to sell them on
    lots of gangs doing the same
    little bit stupid importing as lots in thailand anyways but thais control
    That
    easy money for them but not so easy for falang be warned do not get involed
    in selling drugs in thailand your more likely to be shot dead buy a locsl thais
    be WARNED

  24. Hot Lips
    February 3, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    I don’t mean to be horrible here, he may have learning difficulties but I think he still knew what he was doing. If you have loans to pay off you find a way that doesn’t involve anything illegal. To me he done the crime in Thailand, and ok his sentence was reduced but to me wherever you do the crime that is where you should serve your prison sentence. I know I might seem a bit harsh to other people but that is just me and I apologise for that.

  25. Tony
    March 3, 2013 at 9:17 am

    I seen Michael on that”Bangtwang doc(bbc
    2003,he’s done some hard jail in that big tiger
    Over here that’s a 2 stretch for them pills he got caught with , over there them thais take liberties , you can’t rehabillatate with sentencing guidelines like that, so get a grip you people who talk rubbish! Michael should get a walkout for that

  26. Paddy
    March 9, 2013 at 8:24 am

    I seriously doubt he ever wants to see an illegal drug ever again….Job done! Let him go!

    I don’t think the world has improved much by what we have done to him

  27. Martina
    March 11, 2013 at 1:33 am

    super. -) is perfect, you’re in England-mail I sent to Thailand, perhaps send it to you

  28. James
    March 11, 2013 at 7:36 am

    He was only 19 with learning difficulties, should be freed. A foreigner doing same into UK would have got only couple of years

  29. jay jay
    March 23, 2013 at 4:59 am

    I totally agree that he should of spent the rest of his sentence in the Thai prison.
    All drug mules do it for easy money (if they don’t get caught. They know the score get caught get a hefty sentence.
    Abide by the laws.
    Remember young or old, we know the difference between right and wrong.
    Do wrong… Accept the consequences.
    He does’nt deserve pity or early release. How many crimes are committed because of drugs? How many people die because of drugs? Emough said……….

  30. James
    May 25, 2013 at 12:35 am

    Ilive in Thailand and it is very simple the moment you land at the airport there are massive signs telling you the penalty for drug trafficking as there are on almost every corner,this guy being 19 should not come into it,it wasn’t a mistake it was a pre meditated attempt to smuggle drugs into a country with some of the harshest penalties in the world and he knew full well the difference between right and wrong.Three things you dont do in Thailand
    1.Never attempt to smuggle drugs.
    2.Never mention the royal family as they are reveered here.
    3.Trust absolutly no-one farangs included.

    • DK
      November 18, 2013 at 2:32 am

      AMEN!!

  31. Brett
    June 3, 2013 at 8:00 pm

    i thought 99 years was a bit soft the should of killed him

  32. Dominic
    July 28, 2013 at 9:56 am

    All drug smugglers deal in death. They are just murderers by remote control.

  33. Peter
    November 5, 2013 at 8:57 pm

    With all due respect guys. I think whoever deals in drugs should not be surprised if he gets caught and then has to pay. Who gives him the right to bring other down to his level and make them sick, poor and get them into crimes to pay for their addiction. For that reason, anyone caught dealing or transporting drugs should be locked away in a hellhole and the key should be thrown away.
    Like it or not, I don’t care

  34. npr
    November 6, 2013 at 8:27 pm

    I did over a year out there and it wasn’t that time that was the biggest punishment, but being sent home away from my wife and family and possibly blacklisted. I got lucky in the latter respect as nobody was there to meet me on release, so I went home for a week before speaking to the embassy and with their help turning myself in to immigration to be deported just for visa overstay (only happened as I was inside and never would have otherwise, but it was a much better option!). There’s no communication between prisons and immigration, so I got lucky, but still it’s caused me more grief outside than in.

    I’m still in disbelief in a way that I ended up doing what I did, but just got pushed into a corner financially and was too proud to ask family for help. It served a good purpose, my time there, and I take many lessons from it. However, I will always be at risk for being messed about by the police for the rest of my days in LOS so its legacy is longer than just the sentence. At least the motorbike taxi rider informant has died, which will make things easier, but really when you get on the wrong side of the law in Thailand it’s very tough to ever get back to normal again, back to where you were.

  35. DK
    November 18, 2013 at 2:38 am

    The other gentleman in the documentary did 14 years before being pardoned on a 50 year sentence. I am so glad his circumstances worked out as the politics of his sentencing and repatriation to his home country if he chose to finish his sentence there made him angry whereas other European countries and the USA had much less restrictions when returning home. All Britian’s have to complete half their sentence no matter if they choose to in Thailand or home so Mr. Hawke’s sentence was 50 years he would have to have served 25 years in either country if he didn’t get pardoned so luckily the stars were on his side because no one deserves that kind of punishment for that type of crime committed. What’s so ironic is murderers, sex offenders and rapists get less time than drug mules (who are usually ppl down on their luck and need the money.

  36. dlk
    November 26, 2013 at 6:28 am

    The other gentleman in the BBC documentary that was made in 2005 was released February 2013 and was pardoned after serving over 14 years. He is now a free man in England trying to acclimate to life on the outside which sometimes can be harder than being on the inside at times. It can become lonely, hard to acclimate considering the major weather changes and lifestyle changes to be made, getting a job, seeing family once again, missing family that may have passed while incarcerated etc. There is a lot to deal with once on the outside. Michael Connell though serving the rest of his sentence will at least be able to sort of adjust to changes in the world as he is in a more humane western prison I am assuming I don’t know about UK prisons…I am from USA. I know in USA, people can be rehabbed through school programs, addiction counseling, methadone to use instead of using in prison, job placement programs, halfway houses etc. We have so many programs for a convicted drug offender that would guarantee them a life on the outside if they apply themselves 100 percent to the program and stick with it. They have the power to become successful again, if they choose.

  37. Rich
    December 10, 2013 at 8:08 pm

    “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.”

    I think this sentence says it all.

  38. Jimmy
    January 16, 2014 at 6:50 am

    I hope he is ok now and it’s alarming to see how misinformed people are on the topic of drugs the boy got caught with ecstasy……ecstasy is a very safe drug and each year the average death rate is around 14 in the UK and these are caused from dehydration not the drug itself nobody complains about alcohol and that alone kills more people than all drugs car accidents and suicides combined so stop making out he is a monster death dealer as there are many wrongs to point fingers at in our society that are completely legal

  39. Baz
    March 8, 2014 at 5:42 am

    I visited Micheal three days before Christmas ’04 with a young English couple who were headed to Phuket for Christmas-the year the tsunami struck. Delighted to hear he’s back in the UK, hopefully his ordeal will soon be behind him and I hope the couple I met survived the appalling scenes down south. Anyone know which prison Micheal is in now? Baz from Ireland