British woman languishes in Egyptian jail for carrying painkillers
Egyptian authorities have detained a British woman who entered the country carrying painkillers.
Laura Plummer, 33, a shop worker who lives in Hull, was arrested after 290 tramadol tablets and some naproxen for her husband’s sore back was found in her suitcase.
She then reportedly signed her name beneath a 38-page statement in Arabic, upon request, believing she would be able to leave the airport afterwards and begin her two-week break by Red Sea.
Instead, she was put into a cramped cell with 25 other women, where she has remained for almost a month.
Tramadol is legal in Britain although users must have a prescription due to its high potency, but it is illegal in Egypt and it is known to be used as a heroin substitute.
Plummer visits her Egyptian husband, who suffers back pain since having an accident, two to four times a year.
Her family believe she is being held on suspicion of what Egyptian authorities consider drug trafficking. They have been told that she may face up to 25 years in jail. It has also been reported that one lawyer has mooted the possibility of the death penalty.
“She had no idea she was doing anything wrong,” said her mother Roberta. “The painkillers were placed at the top of her suitcase; she wasn’t hiding them.”
After being apprehended by the authorities, she texted her father, Nevile, and said: “I’m in trouble and I need your help.”
However, when he attempted to reply, the message could not be delivered because her phone was turned off. He is reported to have since spent £10,000 on legal bills.
“It’s just blown out of proportion completely,” her brother, James Plummer, told the Press Association. “She’s so by the book, so routine, she just likes her own home comforts, watches Emmerdale every night or things like that, going to bed at nine o’clock every night.”
Her mother and sisters have travelled to Egypt to visit Laura since her arrest on 9 October.
“They say she’s unrecognisable,” said Mr Plummer. “When they seen her, she’s like a zombie, they said.”
He said her hair was starting to fall out due to stress and he doubted whether she could cope. “I don’t think she’s tough enough to survive it,” he said. “She has a phobia of using anybody else’s toilet, so let alone sharing a toilet and a floor with everybody else. That will be awful for her; it’ll be traumatising.
“It’s awful for Laura … she’s not a tough person at all. She’s only small.”
She is due back in court on Thursday, for her third hearing. It has been alleged that on a previous court visit she was handcuffed to a policeman armed with a machine gun.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We are supporting a British woman and her family following her detention in Egypt.”