Stained passport lands former Meden student in Thai prison cell

editorial image

A backpacker has described an “horrific” experience after a stained passport left him in a cockroach-infested Thai cell.

Gavin Topley, who grew up in Edwinstowe and whose family live in Warsop, was detained in Bangkok las week and was forced to live for six sleepless days in a windowless 20ft x 30ft room shared by up to 35 people.

The 30-year-old was detained after he spilled hand gel on his passport and the watermark had run, prompting suspicions by immigration.

He had been travelling to Vietnam to take up a job teaching English but was turned back at the border and returned to Bangkok airport.

This was despite nobody questioning the stained passport while travelling between Britain, Thailand and Cambodia before his ill-feted attempt to enter Vietnam.

By the time he was returned to Bangkok, the former Meden School pupil’s 30-day Visa had expired and he was put into the detainee cell until the British consulate intervened.

“It was pretty horrific,” he said.

“They took me to this room and there was no explanation, there was no staff in there and for younger people it could have been quite distressing - one girl was absolutely petrified and I had to help reassure her.

“The conditions were awful, you were allowed to keep your phone and because it was the airport you could get the free Wi-Fi so I could still talk to friends and family. They were quite worried but it really helped me through.”

There were 14 bunk beds but they were crawling with insects so Gavin said he slept on a floor mat.

He was given three meals a day, although it consisted of questionable meat and bread, while he also struggled to rest.

“There were people being taken out and coming in all hours and the light was permanently on so it was impossible to sleep - there were two nights where I didn’t get any at all,” he explained.

“The air conditioning also made it freezing and you had no personal space because there were so many people crammed in there.”

Gavin, who recently graduated from university in Bournemouth where he still lives, even had to pay £16 a night to stay in the airport cell.

His baggage was also lost after he was escorted from the plane after being sent back to Bangkok.

During his stay his friends even mocked up a campaign - #FreeGav - on social media to see him released which gained international interest with support pouring in from across the world.

It was on his third day that the British consul visited him and his return to the UK was arranged, using the same passport that had landed him in trouble.

“They just rushed me on to the plane, but it was just a relief to be out of there.”