An Australian convicted drug smuggler – who spent seven years in a Thai prison – has revealed the “harsh” conditions she endured from sharing a cell with 120 other women and being forced to eat maggot infested food.
Holly Deane-Johns dodged the death penalty but ended up with a huge prison sentence after being arrested at age 29 in 2000 in Thailand.
She was caught with 20 grams of heroin that she was preparing to send to Australia via the post
Initially she was sentenced to 31 years in jail, which was later reduced to 22 years and six months.
Now 51, she has opened up for the first time on the horror experience of being imprisoned in a notorious Thailand jail, Lardyao Women’s Correctional Institution.
She revealed what it was like in cramped living quarters – which consisted of five-by-six metre cell that she shared with 120 women – coupled with unsanitary living conditions and poor quality food.
“It was just f**king horrible, I was wondering where I was going to sleep,” she told the West Australian.
The Uber driver said she had to fight for a spot on the prison floor, which would be immediately taken if someone left to go to the bathroom, while she would stick to people in the heat as they lay shoulder to shoulder.
On several occasions, she woke up with period blood on her due to the lack of space, Ms Deane-Johns said.
“Everything was harsh, even things as small as a toothache could turn into something big,” she said, as she recalled one prisoner removing her own rotten tooth with a set of pliers.
Prisoners were also forced to stand on tables and hold water over their heads “like a crucifixion”, she added.
Stones, hair or maggots were also a common feature in the food, while sometimes she just didn’t eat, she said.
The former prisoner, who has since been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, also revealed her huge heartache over the treatment of her close friend Aong who she lost after a long struggle with AIDs.
“I watched from my cell as two guys picked her up in a bag and swung her three times before throwing her into a truck like a sack of potatoes. You could hear the thud and I was like, “That’s my mate”,” she said.
As the only Aussie in the prison, Ms Deane-Johns said she learnt Thai, dyed her hair and sold food, toiletries and silk flowers that she had made.
She was also determined to lay low after seeing the media storm that engulfed Schapelle Corby after she was discovered with 4.2kg of marijuana in her boogie board bag at Bali airport in 2004.
Ms Deane-Johns even reached out to Ms Corby sending her a letter advising her to remain silent – but doesn’t know if she ever received her correspondence.
She spent seven years in jail in Thailand before she was transferred to Bandyup Prison in Perth, where she was imprisoned for a further five years.
Upon her release in 2012, her lawyer at the time, Tom Percy, said the length of incarceration was excessive.
“That whole case was just a monument to our obsession with drugs. She had so little drugs on her,’’ he said over a decade ago.
“If she’d got 18 months here, I would have been astounded.
“She’d done massive time for what she did.’’
A bilateral agreement with Thailand, in place since September 2002, allowed transfers of sentenced prisoners between the two countries.
Prisoners could be sent back to their home country as long as their repatriation was paid for and they remained behind bars to finish their sentence.
When the transfer was approved in 2007, Ms Deane-Johns wanted to be closer to her boyfriend, fellow drug trafficker Stephen Wallace, who was doing time in Perth’s Casuarina Prison.
She has since written a book titled, ‘Holly’s Hell – My Long Road Home’ and hopes to share it one day.
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