Care home manager's prison nightmare

EXCLUSIVEBy Ted JeoryA CARE home manager, held in a West Indies prison on drug trafficking charges, has given her first harrowing account of her ordeal behind bars.


By Ted Jeory

A CARE home manager, held in a West Indies prison on drug trafficking charges, has given her first harrowing account of her ordeal behind bars.

Marianne Telfer, from Ardleigh, faces up to 10 years if convicted of the charges, described her "nightmare" in the Dominican Republic jail, known as "The Fortress".

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One of only 14 women prisoners in the 400-inmate prison, the 28-year-old stressed her innocence and made an impassioned appeal for international help to get her released.

Miss Telfer was arrested six weeks ago after her boyfriend, Richard Flack, a 34-year-old landscape gardener from Colchester - with whom she had been on a fortnight's holiday in the Dominican Republic - collapsed and died.

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He had swallowed 18 condoms filled with cocaine, which burst inside his stomach with fatal consequences, but Miss Telfer insisted she had not known of Mr Flack's plan to smuggle drugs into Britain.

She has spent almost four weeks in the Fortaleza San Felipe Prison, from where she wrote an account for the East Anglian Daily Times of her life in jail.

"My lovely holiday was turned into a nightmare. I never dreamed that I could end up in such a situation," said Miss Telfer.

"I'm so worried that I could wait here for months to be released. Some prisoners have been here for years and not even been tried. My life has been turned upside and my family's also - please let there be some good news soon.

"We don't have running water, let alone hot water. We collect the water from a well and use that for washing and cooking. Drinking water is not supplied at all. And yesterday the well seized up and there was no water in it, so we had no water all day."

She added: "The whole situation is unbelievable, I'm trying to stay strong, but some days it's hard not to break down.

"The language barrier is very difficult. Everyone speaks Spanish and I cannot - it sometimes makes me feel very lonely and it's also very bewildering at times."

Miss Telfer said there were about 400 men and 14 women in the prison, where she has been held since March 4, and was sharing a cell with three other women.

She added her mother, Sheila, was in the Dominican Republic fighting for her release, while Dr Stephen Jakobi, of Fair Trials Abroad, and Bob Russell, the MP for Colchester, have also taken up her case.

"I'm very worried about mum staying on her own. I don't think it's not safe, but I know she won't leave until I'm released," said Miss Telfer, who works with adults with learning difficulties at Acorn Village in Mistley.

"Mum has been a terrific support, really strong - I would not have managed this without her. She has had to negotiate with the lawyers, police and this system, which has been at times really scary for her.

"I only want to get out because I'm innocent. I miss my family and friends so much, I can't wait to get home. Their support has been tremendous.

"Support has also been coming from people in my past like old schoolfriends and teachers and I'm very grateful to everyone and also for their kind words and kind letters to MPs."

In the latest development in the case, Andy Ashcroft, the UK ambassador to the Dominican Republic, is due to meet the country's Attorney General to discuss Miss Telfer's plight.

Miss Telfer's father, Roger, a part-time economics lecturer at Colchester Institute, said he was cautiously optimistic.

"I know that there are steps behind the scenes at a high up level. My daughter is completely innocent in all this and the process out there is ridiculous," he added.

"The Attorney General has already been to see her and told her she would be out 'pronto', but that was some time ago."

Mr Telfer will travel to London on Thursday to meet with Mr Russell, Dr Jakobi and the Dominican Republic's ambassador to Britain.

Speaking last night after hearing Miss Telfer's letter to the EADT, Mr Russell said: "I will certainly raise these concerns with both the charge d'affaires on Thursday and also with a Government minister that I'm in close touch with.

"The next stage is to get her out on bail, hopefully back in the UK, but if not at least in the Caribbean."

A spokesman for the Foreign Office said it was monitoring the situation closely.

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