A British grandfather flying to Cancun for a holiday with his wife was detained for three days by Mexican authorities after his name was flagged on an international wanted list.
Anthony Inglis Smith was kept in a cold, dark cell at Cancun International Airport after arriving in Mexico for a long-awaited holiday.
The grandfather from Worthing, Sussex, said he has been suffering from insomnia, nightmares and depression since he was held in the airport cell.
Mr Smith had been mistaken for an international criminal while travelling to Mexico with his wife Carole.
Anthony Inglis Smith and his wife Carole had been saving many for the holiday for some time and they lost £3,000 over it
He discovered he has the same name as other men with serious criminal histories and also has the same birthday as one of them.
This resulted in him being detained for three days at Cancun Airport.
Mr Smith said: ‘After much deliberating over whether or not I was a criminal, I was completely shocked when 24 hours later I was actually detained and separated from my wife.
‘Being detained in a cell for something that you haven’t done is definitely quite disorientating.
‘They showed me to a dingy cold, 10ft by 10ft windowless cell with two thin mattresses on the floor and those flimsy aeroplane blankets.
‘My wife was escorted off to the hotel on her own, which she found frightening because she was in a new country and all by herself.
Anthony was detained in a cold, dark room at Cancun Airport for three days. During the detention, he was always supervised by a security guard who controlled every move he made, also when he went to the toilet
‘This whole experience has seriously affected her as well.
‘She’s too frightened to go abroad now which is what we both love to do normally.’
The man said he called the British Embassy for help, but was told they could not do anything about his situation unless he was officially arrested.
During detention, immigration officers recorded his finger prints and his eye colour.
Mr Smith was constantly supervised by a security guard even when he went to the toilet.
Anthony said: ‘I know there were suspicions I was a criminal but I was being treated like I was a serial murderer. I couldn’t even go to the toilet without the guard writing down every my move.
‘The toilets were in a terrible state. The urinal was broken and because of the stress I had a serious bout of IBS and really had no choice.
‘There was a shower but it was also a store cupboard with broomsticks in it, and there were no towels.
‘Luckily I still had my phone so that I could contact my wife and get some clothes to change into.’
After three days during which he got little information about why he was being held, Anthony was allowed to fly home on the next British Airways flight out of Cancun.
His unusual middle name apparently convinced the Mexican authorities they had the wrong Anthony Smith.
Mr Smith, who discovered he shares the same name as several other men with serious criminal convictions, said he plans to write to the European Court of Human Rights
Anthony said he contacted the American Embassy to ask why he was ‘flagged up’ at the airport but he has not got any reply yet.
Mr Smith said: ‘When it was time to get back on the flight I was escorted by four people including a national security officer.
‘I was tempted to turn to them and say, ‘I am 65, do you really think I am going to run?’. It was by far the most embarrassing walk of shame ever. All the passengers could see me.’
His wife Carole was able to return on the same flight.
He said: ‘When we returned the immigration lady at Gatwick said ‘nice holiday?’. They hadn’t even been informed about what just happened.
‘Apparently there should have been a big red cross on my boarding pass to show that I had been detained, but there wasn’t.
‘I think it’s clear there was a mistake and I am in touch with the American embassy about this.
After being detained for three days, Anthony was allowed to fly home on a British Airways flight out of Cancun. Luckily, Carole was able to return on the same flight
‘I will also be writing to the European Court of Human Rights.
‘Luckily I can see the humour in this but I still want to get to the bottom of it.’
The couple had been saving for the dream holiday for some time and lost their money.
Anthony said: ‘I’ve lost £3,000 over this, but it’s not about the money, it’s about clearing my name and making sure that I won’t have any further issues when I next go travelling.’
A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman said: ‘Our staff offered advice to a British man who was detained and subsequently released by the Mexican immigration authorities.
‘We provided details of local lawyers and how to make a complaint to the Mexican Institute of Migration.’
The American Embassy said it could not comment on the case due to a government shutdown.