Sean Felton, 47, says he fought off perverts and killers in Sakhon Nakon Prison but was looked after by the prison’s ‘daddy’
A charity worker accused of trespassing spent more than a month in a Thai prison fearing he was going to be raped.
Sean Felton claims he fought off perverts and killers in the squalid conditions at Sakhon Nakon Prison.
He survived in a cramped cell – home to roughly 50 inmates – on three bowls of rice each day.
Sean had to sleep on the floor and bathed with fellow lags and was one of only two Farangs (westerners) in the prison.
The 47-year-old founder of Abducted Angels, an organisation dedicated to locating children taken abroad during family fractures, is back home now in the former pit village of Norton Canes, near Cannock.
But the nightmare he says he endured at Sakon Nakhon still hangs from him.
He was put into the prison for the offence of trespass, which can carry a five-year sentence in Thailand.
And Sean insists he was left to rot without a court appearance or formal charge.
His crime was to have helped Scottish father Jodie Smith bring his ten-year-old son Joleon back home.
The pair were arrested after allegations they had entered the estranged wife’s home without permission.
Joleon Smith is now back with his father but the bleak memories remain with him.
“It was horrific,” said the father-of-one, “it was torment. I never want to experience it again.
“You were always scared of being raped. Blokes having sex in front of us was every day. You just had to look away.
“If thoughts of your family entered your head, you had to think of something else quickly or you would go downhill. I think if I’d been there longer I would’ve broken down mentally.”
Sean’s time in Sakhon Nakon came without warning.
He says officers at a village police station laughed as they announced “you’re going home”, then took him to the facility.
Sean remembers being driven through the prison’s huge iron gates.
“I was revved up,” he said, “I didn’t know what I thought. Really, I had no emotions.
“They walked me through a door and I could see a huge exercise yard. As I walked down the corridor around 600 Thai prisoners ran chanting to the mesh fence.”
The chilling chant was “you’ll die in prison”.
Jodie had arrived inside before him and pulled no punches about the regime.
Three thin blankets, three head counts a day and frequent choruses of the Thai national anthem. Be late for the latter and be clubbed.
Found in possession of a lighter and five years was summarily added to your sentence.
“Jodie and I spoke, but not a lot, “Sean explained.
“We watched each others’ backs, but there were times when we had to walk away and have our own space. We needed our own thoughts.
“The cell was an empty room with two holes in the floor for toilets.
“There was a big fan on the ceiling that was always whirring and the light was on continually. Food was rice – morning, noon and 3pm. The weight just dropped off me, I was getting weaker and weaker.
“The washing room was just a large vat of cold, filthy water. It smelt of crap, it was disgusting.
“Days were spent sitting outside in the burning heat. The Thai prisoners had to work, we weren’t allowed to do anything. I kept asking, give me something to do.
“In the main, guards were wary that if anything happened to me, they’d have the embassy on them.
“But they could be ruthless to the Thais. A lad was a couple of minutes late and got badly beaten with batons.
“In the next cell, a 40-year-old prisoner died at 1am – you could hear the whistles from other prisoners to alert the guards. They moved that body at 3pm the following day.”
The guards may have been restrained, fellow prisoners were not – and it was they who effectively ran Sakhon Nakon, according to Sean.
Thankfully, one inmate – the prison’s daddy – had time for Sean.
“He was a kickboxer called Singh and he had a lot of respect in there,” said Sean.
“One day I had a bit of a rant and threw away the slops they gave us with rice.
“He pulled me to one side and said, ‘Farang, there are many rules that you must obey’. I told him, ‘how can I do that when I don’t know the rules?’
“You had to be strong, you had to constantly push prisoners off, you had to stick up for yourself, otherwise it was much worse.
“One day, I was encircled by people I didn’t get on with. I thought, ‘this is it’. I did panic.”
Sean’s unexpected release came just five days before he was due in court – Jodie had been set free only hours earlier.
Jodie’s Thai wife Jintra Jummaimuang – accused of snatching their son from Edinburgh – played a key part in the pair’s liberation.
She asked for the trespass charges to be dropped and agreed to the child’s UK return.
The ordeal has not blunted his battle to find lost children.
He feels it adds weight to the campaign for a global, multi-agency approach to curb the rise in abductions abroad.
“It shook me up,” he added. “I never want to experience anything like that again and it will take a long time to come to terms with what happened.
“I seem to be going through so much to be a voice for others.
“But it proves what I’ve said there should be something there to support parents. It needs case workers, police, courts and embassies working together.” MM – EP