Preston man Simon Wood who was locked up in a “hell hole” prison on the paradise island of Zanzibar has spoken for the first time after his release

A Preston man who was locked up in a “hell hole” prison on the paradise island of Zanzibar has spoken for the first time after his release.

Simon Wood, 51, was jailed alongside his Italian wife Francesca Scalfari, 45, on the West African Island, located in the Indian Ocean, just over two weeks ago.

But today (Fri) he said he was “floating” after his lawyers persuaded a judge to dismiss the most serious criminal charges that were levelled against the pair.

During his ordeal in a squalid local prison, Simon slept on a single mattress with another inmate and was forced to defecate through a hole in his cramped ten-man cell.

Simon Wood, 51, from Preston, was jailed on the paradise island of Zanzibar in the Indian Ocean after he was arrested along with his Italian wife Francesca Scalfari, 45, two weeks ago

Guards also shaved his head, probed his food with their fingers and refused to let his relatives visit the jail on occasions.

Simon and his wife still face nine financial related charges, which he claims stem from a “quarrel” over money with ex-investors in his resort, the Sharazād Boutique Hotel.

But yesterday, he said it was a “relief” that a judge had granted him bail, adding that he and his wife were “ready” to defend themselves in court on future occasions.

He said: “We’re floating now. I’m pinching myself. There are still 9 charges levelled against us, but we hold no fear against those. I’m quite ready to go to court.

Simon Wood and his wife have been released from jail after his lawyers persuaded a judge to dismiss the most serious criminal charges, but they still face nine other charges relating to a “quarrel” over money with ex-investors in his resort, the Sharazād Boutique Hotel

"We’re just shocked that this has gone from a civil to a criminal case. It has separated us as a family and affected our 11-year-old son. It has affected elderly parents.

“I’m talking about it in the past now, which is a great relief, but it was difficult.”

Simon, who was born in Preston but has lived on Zanzibar for 20 years, said he found out about the charges against him and his wife about a month ago.

The couple then worked to “lobby” high-level officials in the regional government, but after his pleas failed, the pair were forced to hand themselves in to police.

Simon was locked inside the ancient Kilimani prison - built by Portuguese colonisers roughly 300 years ago – on June 7 where he was subjected to squalid conditions.

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He said: “It’s very shocking, obviously. I was taken there and strip-searched. My wife was in a separate place where the women are.

“On the male side, there are around 600 inmates and about 450 are on remand.

“They are basically all crammed into rooms of between 20 and eight, and I got into one that initially had ten in a room.

“I had a single mattress on the floor. I had to share that with another guy. We were locked in for 14 hours a day, from 4:30 pm to around 6 am, at daybreak.

“It’s quite hot until later a night, and there were mosquitos. There’s a hole in the wall which is the toilet, basically.

“The prison was built by the Portuguese in the 1700s, and it’s not really changed much to be frank.”

Simon’s money laundering charges meant that under local laws he could be kept in jail - without bail - for up to eight months while awaiting a trial.

But he claimed that these charges were put forward as a “tactic” and there was no real likelihood that he or his wife would be prosecuted for them.

He said: “Every step of the way, the public prosecution department's tactic was to delay because they knew if we went to judgement, we’d be freed.

“So it was just about keeping us inside on remand.”

Simon and Francesca made the difficult decision to put their 11-year-old son on a plane to Italy, alone, the day before they entered prison.

And the dad said he couldn’t wait to see the lad again now that he was out - even if this meant revealing the full extent of the horrific situation he’d been through.

He said: “We knew what was coming, so we got him on a flight that night. He’d never flown on his own. It was a very difficult 24 hours.

“On Tuesday and Wednesday we managed to video call him.

"He doesn’t know what happened to me. He asked about my hair, and I said I had lice, which I think he swallowed.”

A spokesman for the UK Foreign Office said: “We are supporting a British man in Tanzania and are in contact with the local authorities."