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Brit wrongly jailed in Spain survived guards

A British woman who was wrongly locked up abroad has told how she survived sadistic prison guards and evil inmates in a hellhole Spanish prison.

Terry Daniels was living a carefree life in Tenerife when her decision to accept a trip to Brazil with her boss triggered a nightmare 12-year ordeal which saw her imprisoned and her life turned upside down.

Terry’s boss Antonio Benavides was stopped with £1million worth of cocaine on their return from South America, but she became a victim of guilt by association.

Her arrest at Gran Canaria Airport in June 1997 kickstarted a legal battle that saw her handed a 10-year jail sentence despite no drugs being found on her and the admission of Benavides that she knew nothing about the drug smuggling.

Topas prison near the Spanish city of Salamanca (Image: Google Maps)

Terry was given conditional liberty as she appealed the decision on the conditional she did not leave Tenerife.

After some legal back and forth the British woman believed the matter was closed and returned to the UK.

Unfortunately for Terry, that was only the start of her problems as she admitted to Chris Thrall’s Bought the T-shirt podcast: “We kept thinking it was all over, but half of me knew it possibly wasn’t.”

Terry was living a carefree life in Tenerife when it was turned upside down
Terry was living a carefree life in Tenerife when it was turned upside down (Image: Supplied)

Her world came crashing back down again when she applied for a job as a carer for elderly cerebral palsy sufferers. A police check revealed that she was still wanted in Spain and a hearing had gone against her without her knowledge.

Terry’s sentence was therefore still outstanding.

In June 2003, Scotland Yard officers arrived at her home to arrest her on an international extradition warrant.

She was flown back to Spain and locked up in the mixed Topas prison, near Salamanca in northwest Spain. It has a reputation for being one of the country’s toughest and most dangerous prison.

Terry said: “It was just totally surreal. I’d thought my nightmare was over but it was actually just beginning.

“I quickly learned physical violence was used openly by both the prison officers and the police.

“When I was being transferred from the holding cell to the main prison, there was a girl on the bus with me who obviously had a serious mental problem and wasn’t being cooperative.

The British woman compared her plight to the Peru Two, Michaella McCollum and Melissa Reid
Michaella McCollum and Melissa Reid (Image: REUTERS)

“As soon as we stopped, the guards took her around the back and beat her with a baton. I was horrified.”

Terry tried to survive by keeping her head down and “avoiding trouble”.

Her ordeal began in Gran Canaria Airport with her boss’s huge horde of cocaine being discovered and Spanish border patrol guards shoving guns in her face.

During her spell in the Spanish prison, Terry said: “I’m not sure how long I can cope in this horrible place.

“It’s freezing, snowing, filthy and full of drug addicts. I have seen women prisoners beaten horribly by the guards, nobody speaks a word of English and I have no idea where I am or what they are going to do with me.

“The place is crawling with drugs, everyone takes methadone. The food is inedible. All I am eating is bread.”

Terry kept fighting for her freedom and after 19 months she was allowed to return to the UK on medical grounds. She suffered a brain aneurysm soon after her initial arrest which experts attributed to the stress of her wrongful arrest.

Terry with her former local MP John Bercow, who fought to secure her release
Terry with her former local MP John Bercow, who fought to secure her release (Image: Supplied)

After another 19 months in prison in the UK she was granted a Royal Pardon from Spain, finally securing her long overdue freedom in 2009.

On her side had been John Bercow, who had been her local MP in Buckinghamshire and fought to secure her release.

The British former prisoner compared her own experiences to the infamous Peru Two, the young British women Michaella McCollum and Melissa Reid who were imprisoned in Peru after being caught with 11kg of cocaine on them in Lima International Airport.

After her release, Terry said: “I had very dark days when I thought, ‘I just can’t deal with this anymore’ but you do because you have to. It’s a case of sink or swim.

Despite her horrifying experience, Terry revealed she was “grateful” her and Benavides were not stopped in the Brazilian airport.

She feared having to spend time in the shocking Brazilian prison system which she thinks would have been akin to a death sentence.

The Brit also said she doesn’t carry around hate, despite her drawn-out nightmare.

She said: “I don’t hate Antonio. He did what he did. I am very angry with the legal system.

“There’s a lot of people out there with stories much worse than mine. I’ve never looked back. That was the advice when I walked out or prison.”

Terry released her book Passport to Hell: How I Survived Sadistic Prison Guards, Corrupt Officials, and Hardened Criminals in Spain’s Toughest Prisons in 2013.


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