A man who was held in a Thai prison for three years, after admitting offences linked to a pharmaceuticals website selling Viagra and steroids, today spoke of his ordeal.
Neil Hartley, 61, was arrested in November 2011 at a beer bar complex in central Pattaya.
He claims a Thai lawyer told him if he pleaded guilty he would be fined – but instead he was thrown in jail for three years.
He was advised to admit purchase, concealment and distribution of illegal narcotics, import-export violations, pharmaceutical-license offences and working without a work permit.
Mr Hartley, who was sent home to Heysham on a flight to Manchester last Saturday, said: “There is so much corruption over there.
“I went to Thailand to work with a friend, who was running a website exporting pharmaceuticals all over the world. He had been running it for six years.
“I only helped with e-mails and orders. I was a scapegoat. The Thai police visited the man who ran the website and demanded thousands of pounds.
“When he did not pay them, they arrested me two weeks later, while he was out of the country.
“I was on remand for a month, then went to Pattaya Court, and the judge jailed me. There was nothing I could do, I was in chains and leg irons.
“The British Embassy did not help me.”
Reliving the moment he was sent to prison he said: “It was all men and ladyboys.
“I was thrown in a van with around 60 prisoners. The guards would hit people with sticks if they said anything. They are animals.
“When I arrived at the prison, Nong Palai, my cell was 10 yards by five yards, with 85 criminals inside, including murderers. There were around 1,500 people in the prison.
“It had bars at either end and a concrete floor where we had to sleep. If you wanted bedding you had to pay for it.
“There were two British men in when I arrived; they had stolen whiskey from a supermarket. Within a week one was dead, beaten to death.”
Neil added: “The ladyboys were kept separately from us. They made a tent out of sheets and would sell sex to the prisoners at weekends so they had money to buy cigarettes.
“When my mum sent me money I bought 15 blankets to stitch together to make a makeshift bed, and paid for better food – although it wasn’t much better than what we were getting. I lived on tinned sardines but at least you knew they weren’t contaminated, otherwise you got a chicken’s foot, or cold rice.
“They threw us out of our cells from 7am. There was just a yard to go in. I saw a Thai man stabbed with a sharpened iron bar.”
At 4pm, Mr Hartley says he and the other prisoners were put back in their humid, stinking cells.
He said: “You had to pay for a bed space with cigarettes. There was a hole in the floor for a toilet - shared by all of us.”
One doctor visited the prison twice a month, but Neil was unable to get medication at first without a passport as it had been seized.
He said: “I thought about ending my life, but just got on with it.”
Mr Hartley, who formerly worked at Pines Lakes leisure complex near Carnforth, took up the ‘job’ in Thailand when he was made redundant from Pontins.
He is virtually blind in one eye, with untreated cataracts in the other.
His tearful 90-year-old mother, who lives in a static caravan in Heysham, said: “He’s the only thing I have in the world - and I’m the only thing he has in the world. “This last three years has been terrible.
“He says the bed I have given him was paradise compared to what he is used to.
“When I first saw him I walked past him twice, I did not recognise him. He is seven stone.”
His friend Peter Rowley, who used to work with him in Carnforth, picked him up from the airport after Thai authorities set him back to Britain on his release.
He said: “People need to be told about the corruption over there, it is unbelievable.”
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We are aware of the arrest of a British national on November 4, 2011, in Pattaya, Thailand and provided consular assistance.”