Grandfather, 68, thrown in hellhole Lisbon prison after drug mules plant 3kg of heroin in his luggage
A British grandfather spent nine months in a Portuguese jail after Mozambique drug mules planted three kilos of heroin in his luggage. Peter Hambrook, 68, was arrested after the class A drug was found in the lining of a borrowed case he had used to bring back gifts from Mozambique.
He was locked up in a Lisbon prison along with rapists and murderers as he battled to clear his name.
Peter, describing his experiences of the prison, said: “It was hell. It’s the worst thing I’ve ever experienced – I never thought that I’d get out.”
The software consultant has spent his career solving glitches in the systems of some of the world’s biggest banks and insurance firms.
In May last year, he was asked to go to Amsterdam by an old colleague where he was due to work for a Dutch travel company earning £500 a day. But once he had landed at the city’s Schipol airport he was told the job was actually 8,000 miles away in a company outpost in Mozambique.
While in the African country he was asked to visit the Maputo Market and buy some gifts “as a thank you” for an associate in Amsterdam. A colleague there known only as “Jack” lent him a case to bring the presents back in.
On the 24th of May last year he travelled back to Europe with a stopover in Portugal before flying back to Amsterdam to complete the paperwork for his job. But when he collected his bag at Lisbon airport, police from the airport’s anti-drug trafficking unit pounced.
They slashed open the case’s canvas lining to find 3kg worth of heroin with a purity of 38.2 per cent. Peter said: “I was surprised. I’d bought straw hats and African carvings and put them in the bag. I had no reason to suspect an ulterior motive.
“I suppose in hindsight I should have been suspicious. Jack offered to lend me a bag and he carried it up the stairs to the room and to the airport.
“I wasn’t paid anything, I knew my fingerprints weren’t on the case, I had no phone messages about it. That’s the constant thread – that’s why I knew I would be freed.”
The full impact of the charges only dawned on him when he appeared in court and discovered the gravity of the charges claiming that he had aided an international drug trafficker.
It was only after four days that he could call his wife Jean to tell her what had happened.
He was then moved to the notorious high-security EP Lisbon Prison where he was held for seven and a half months.
In that time his wife spent more than £30,000 on legal costs and travel.
Peter, who is diabetic, lost more than three stone behind bars and spent days in isolation in a solitary confinement unit.
He described the conditions in the prison as “awful”, with no air conditioning or heating, and there was an open toilet in the cells.
Peter, who is writing a book about his experience, said the UN had a wing shut down due to rats running around last year, and there had been a riot in the prison earlier this year.
During the time he was locked up he said there were 12 deaths, only four of which were from natural causes.
At his trial he was acquitted of the accusations that he was paid up to £10,000 for trafficking the drugs, but his nightmare wasn’t over as prosecutors then launched an appeal, saying he must have been aware he was trafficking the drug.
He was eventually cleared by a panel of judges when they pointed out that he was a family man with “higher education, successful career, and good economic capacity”.