Shop assistant Laura Plummer, from Hull, was sentenced to three years in jail on Boxing Day for travelling to the Middle Eastern country with Tramadol pills in her suitcase
The sisters of the British woman imprisoned for carrying painkillers into Egypt have been told to postpone their visit by the Foreign Office because it is impossible to know where she will be sent to serve her term.
Shop assistant Laura Plummer, from Hull, was sentenced to three years in jail on Boxing Day for travelling to the Middle Eastern country with Tramadol pills in her suitcase.
Laura has also said she is now ‘getting along with’ her fellow inmates in Hurghada after sharing out the food given to her by family members.
She was previously beaten up and robbed by other prisoners, with her family saying she was being targeted because ‘she is foreign’.
Yesterday her distraught mother, Roberta Synclair, took a seven-hour round trip to the notorious Qena prison before being told her daughter was actually in the same city she had departed from.
But with Roberta heading home today after a ‘traumatising’ experience, sisters Jayne and Rachel were planning to travel to visit Laura next week.
Laura’s sisters (Jayne left and Rachel right) have been told to postpone their visit by the Foreign Office because it is impossible to know where she will be sent to serve her term
Yesterday her distraught mother, Robert Synclair, took a seven-hour round trip to the notorious Qena prison before being told her daughter was actually in the same city she had departed from. She was told on Wednesday her daughter was in Safaga, but when she arrived was told she was in Qena and then when she went to Qena
Because of the ‘farce’ endured by Roberta – she was told on Wednesday her daughter was in Safaga, but when she arrived was told she was in Qena and then when she went to Qena on Thursday was told Laura was in Hurghada – the Foreign Office has warned the family against travel any time soon.
Jayne Synclair, 40, told MailOnline: ‘They told us not to book flights because they said she might be moved again and we’ll be messed about like mum was.
‘It was an absolute farce, what happened to her.’
But Jayne said it is difficult for her to postpone the visit for too long because Laura is expecting her sisters’ arrival.
She explained: ‘We need to sort the flights out because mum told Laura we’re coming and she’s excited for that.’
Discussing Laura’s current situation, Jayne said she is ‘distraught’ – but has at least established a better relationship with her fellow inmates.
Laura’s mother, Roberta Synclair, drove three and a half hours to Qena prison – a notorious jail on the banks of the Nile holding murderers and jihadists – only to be told her daughter was not there. Pictured: Laura
‘She shares some of her food [which is brought to her from outside by the family] with them now.
‘When she first got there, there was a lot of trouble, lots of stealing food, but now she’s getting to know them a bit and getting along with them.
‘They have to live off cheese and bread given once a day if no-one visits them – and I don’t think it’s very good stuff to be honest.’
Jayne also said Laura’s Egyptian boyfriend Omar Caboo, whose back pain she brought the Tramadol to treat, plans to visit her sister.
But she said she doubts whether the couple will stay together.
‘When she’s back in England, I doubt my dad will ever let her go back to Egypt to see him,’ she said.
‘She would be devastated to not see him again – he’s her first real boyfriend.
‘I think there is some heartbreak for her at the end of all this.’
But Jayne was keen to stress that the ‘negative press’ Omar has received is unfair and explained she feels ‘sorry’ for him.
Meanwhile Jayne said her dad, Neville Plummer, is bankrolling the family’s support of Laura – and is spending his pension in the process.
He has already spent around £40,000 and – with Jayne told Laura’s appeal could take ten months – can expect to spend much more.
‘It saddens her to think dad is paying all this money, but he’s told her it’s the least of her worries,’ Jayne said.
Yesterday Roberta took a taxi to Qena prison – a notorious jail on the bank of the Nile holding murderers and jihadists over 140 miles from where she was staying – only to be told her daughter was not there.
Ms Plummer’s sister, Jayne Synclair (right), told MailOnline that she is flying to the Middle East next week to take over the responsibility of managing Laura’s case from her mother (left)
She was turned away from a separate jail in Safaga on Wednesday, about an hour away from her hotel in Hurghada, after Laura was moved there without her knowledge.
Laura’s father said it was ‘farcical’ that Roberta was only about a mile away from her mother all along.
Neville Plummer, 70, said: ‘Roberta went all the way to Qena from Hurghada and when she got there they said, ‘No, she’s not here’.
‘She’s been in Hurghada all along.’
Mr Plummer also said that Laura ‘seems a bit better’ based on what he has heard this evening – and hopes she could be transferred to a safer prison in Cairo.
Laura’s sister, Rachel Plummer, said today that her mother suffered a ‘double blow’ after driving out to see Laura and bring her much-needed supplies – only to be disappointed again.
The family was left desperately trying to find out where Laura was being held, with Rachel explaining that she is waiting for a response from the Foreign Office about her location.
British tourist Laura Plummer (pictured) collapsed in shock after hearing she had been given a three-year sentence in a hellish Egyptian prison for drug smuggling.
Now she has said her mother has found Laura – back in Hurghada, where has she been held since her arrest in October, while she waits for space to become available at Qena prison.
Her cell in Hurghada has previously been reported as 15ft by 15ft and containing 25 other women, some of whom her family said have beaten and robbed her.
Laura’s family also said the jail is full of ‘murderers, heroin addicts and prostitutes’ and said she was being targeted ‘because she is foreign’.
Earlier today her father said he feared for his 33-year-old daughter’s life if she had to stay in the notorious Qena prison – particularly after hearing about cases of guards raping inmates.
Qena prison is home to convicted jihadis, rapists, murderers and other serious criminals.
Laura Plummer, 33, and her father Neville, 70, who said his daughter will ‘stick out like a sore thumb’ in Qena prison
Mr Plummer said his daughter, who was arrested in Egypt after she was found to be carrying 290 Tramadol tablets in her suitcase, will ‘stick out like a sore thumb’ in the jail.
He told MailOnline: ‘It’s terrible, where she’s being kept. I’ve heard horrible things about it – about the paedophiles and killers and jihadis.
‘These are people who are totally anti-Western – she’ll stick out like a sore thumb.’
Mr Plummer added that he is also worried about what he has been told of prison guards in the Middle Eastern country, including cases of them raping inmates.
Laura’s mother, Roberta, will visit her in prison today to hand over fresh food and clothes before flying back to Hull.
One of her daughters, Jayne Synclair, said her mother is so traumatised by the experience that she will not return to Egypt after she leaves tomorrow.
Mr Plummer – who has six children by Roberta but is no longer married to her – said he will stay in the UK and manage the family’s finances during the ordeal.
He said: ‘I’m the one holding the purse strings, so I won’t be going there. We don’t know where the next bill is coming from, so it’s easier for me to stay here and sort out the money.’
The family has already spent at least £40,000 helping Laura, which has included paying for her food while she is held in jail.
The horrific experience has ‘ruined Laura’s life,’ Mr Plummer explained. He added: ‘She’s a pale shadow of herself.’
He said his daughter was so naive that she didn’t know the difference between Tramadol and aspirin – ‘or even Smarties’ – and was in no way guilty of smuggling the drugs.
Through tears, Mr Plummer also spoke of how his ‘lovely’ daughter was ‘timid’, ‘innocent’ and ‘vulnerable’ and stressed his hope that a deal could be reached to have her moved to a British prison.
‘We live in hope, but there seems to be bad news every day so I don’t know.
‘She doesn’t speak a word of Arabic – the only thing she can say is Omar’s name, and she gets that wrong half the time.
Describing the conditions in the Qena prison, Jayne said: ‘I’ve seen pictures and if you kept a dog in there and the RSPCA saw it – you would lose your dog. It’s honestly THAT bad’
‘It’s just terrible.’
Laura’s sister Jayne has also revealed that the jailed holidaymaker was ‘confused’ and behaving strangely in prison.
‘Her whole life is flashing before her eyes,’ she said on Wednesday.
‘Mum said she kept having flashbacks of being a small child. I’m not a doctor, but it might be the brain trying to process everything that’s happening.’
Jayne also said her mother, who is in Egypt to be by her daughter’s side during the ordeal, is flying back to Hull tomorrow – and will not be returning.
Ms Plummer’s sister Jayne Synclair said today that her sister is an ‘absolute mess’
She explained: ‘Mum’s not slept in three days – it’s unbelievable. It’s been horrible for her as well.
‘She can’t fly back again – it’s been far too traumatising.’
Jayne said that her and her other sister, Rachel, will fly out to Egypt next week to take over from her mother.
‘Mum said straight away, ‘Who’s going to come back next time?’,’ she said.
‘We’re going to have to take it in turns – she’s got five siblings so we’ll have to sort something out between us.’
But Jayne said the family just wants ‘shy, quiet’ Laura to come home after her horrific experience.
‘Mum said she kept having flashbacks of being a small child. I’m not a doctor, but it might be the brain trying to process everything that’s happening,’ Jayne said of Laura (pictured above with Omar)
She said her sister – who ‘can’t even watch Jurassic Park because she’s scared of dinosaurs’ – is not suited to prison and has previously warned she could die behind bars.
Laura’s family has previously said she was robbed and beaten while being held for her trial – being picked on because she is foreign.
But Jayne said Laura, who is a Christian, has always been respectful of Egyptian culture.
Egypt also reportedly defied the British Foreign Office by sending Laura to Qena prison.
‘I thought I’d be freed – I thought it was the end,’ Laura sobbed yesterday.
Laura escaped the death penalty for transporting the opiate Tramadol in her luggage at the start of a holiday. However, she was told she would still be locked up.
Yesterday, Jayne revealed the Foreign Office intervened to block Laura being sent to the ‘dangerous’ Qena prison – but was ignored.
But after turning up to visit her daughter at a jail in Cairo her mother Roberta Synclair, 64, discovered Laura had been moved 150 miles to the notorious hell-hole.
Jayne, 40, said: ‘It’s really underhand – my mum went to Cairo to where they were told she would be but when she turned up she wasn’t there.
‘They have slyly taken her to where the British Foreign Office told us she would never be placed – but the Egyptian authorities have already moved her there.
Stunned, the woman from Hull sobbed before slumping to the floor. ‘I thought I’d be freed — I thought it was the end,’ she sobbed. Speaking after the sentence, her visibly distraught mother, Roberta Synclair, said: ‘This is not fair. She’s done it in all innocence’
‘Our biggest fear with this scenario has been confirmed – she will be sharing a tiny cell with jihadi terrorists and rapists.
‘I honestly dread to think. Laura won’t survive a day in there – let alone three years.
‘She won’t even make it through that – I can’t believe they’ve even still sent her there.’
The jail is situated north of Luxor and Jayne is fearful her sister won’t make it out alive.
A Foreign Office spokesperson said: ‘We are continuing to provide assistance to Laura and her family following the court ruling in Egypt, and our embassy is in regular contact with the Egyptian authorities.’
Describing the conditions in the Qena prison, Jayne said: ‘I’ve seen pictures and if you kept a dog in there and the RSPCA saw it – you would lose your dog. It’s honestly THAT bad.’
She said the family will be expected to pay for Laura’s food and will only be able to visit a maximum of once every two weeks.
Jayne said the family’s Christmas – and year – has been ruined following the sentencing of Laura.
Mr Caboo was reportedly ‘very sad’ while Laura cried so heavily that her mother has to calm her down. Pictured: Mr Caboo (left) with Ms Plummer’s mother (centre) at the court after the sentence
She said Laura is covered in mosquito bites, had a scabby face and her hair is falling out.
Jayne said: ‘Laura has got three years, but we have got a life sentence with this – our family will never be able to shake this off.
‘We come from a privileged background so we did not need the money, her ticket was £500, she had £1,500 and she had £3,500 in her bank.
‘There was nothing on the travel guide website when visiting Egypt that says you cannot take Tramadol into the country.
‘The evidence was so overwhelming in her favour and yet she still got three years.
‘Her solicitor told us that he was expecting to be freed and allowed to leave – but we think she was made an example of.’
Mr Caboo (pictured) was described by witnesses at the court as being ‘very sad’ after the sentence was delivered, while Laura cried so heavily that her mother had to calm her down
Jayne confirmed Laura’s shop assistant job in Princes Quay in Hull has been kept vacant until she returned from her Egypt hell hole.
She added: ‘Laura isn’t the strongest of people, she’s on the verge of a nervous breakdown, covered in scabs.
‘She’s been bitten from head to foot in mosquito bites and she’s like a ghost.
‘Her skin is translucent and the muscles in her legs don’t work – they’re like jelly.
‘That’s why she had to be seated during the court hearing.’
Ms Plummer said, after her sentence: ‘Everyone was saying how strong my case was and that it was only a matter of time. How can this be happening? I can’t do three years here, I’m so frightened, I haven’t done anything wrong.’
Shop worker Laura was arrested after she was found to be carrying 290 Tramadol tablets in her suitcase, a painkiller which is legal in the UK but banned in Egypt.
Ms Plummer’s family, who have described her as ‘naive’, said she was taking the tablets for her Egyptian partner Omar Caboo, who suffers from severe back pain. They say he had no idea she was bringing the medication.
But a judge at a preliminary court sentenced her to three years’ imprisonment and ordered her to pay a fine of 100,000 Egyptian pounds (£4,205).
Jayne Synclair told Sky News yesterday that her sister – who she described as an ‘absolute mess’ – will have to wait 60 days before she can appeal.
She said: ‘What’s going to happen in those 60 days? What’s going to happen to her? She thought she was going to come home. It’s a living hell.’
Ms Synclair said the Egyptian justice system has ‘sentenced her whole family’ as they are all ‘in a state’ worrying if Ms Plummer will ever get out.
Today, Jayne told Good Morning Britain that her sister would ‘never break the law’ adding: ‘Nobody deserves this for taking painkillers to a foreign country.’
Jayne said that their mother was devastated at not being able to see Laura after her sentencing: ‘She could not even comfort her after being sentenced to three years, couldn’t give her a cuddle, a kiss or anything.
‘This prison, you only have to Google it to see how horrendous it is, and my sister being in there is absolutely heartbreaking.
Yesterday, Ms Plummer’s lawyer said the British national had ‘accidentally’ confessed in front of a judge after reportedly misunderstanding a question.
Ms Plummer’s family previously claimed she was suicidal after sharing a 15ft square cell with 25 women inmates.
It has also been claimed that staff at the jail – which is on the outskirts of the city of Hurgharda – have shown little sympathy for what the Egyptian media are calling the ‘Tramadol Tourist’.
Mr Caboo was described by witnesses at the court as being ‘very sad’ after the sentence was delivered, while Laura cried so heavily that her mother had to calm her down.
Speaking after the sentence, her visibly distraught mother, Roberta Synclair, said: ‘This is not fair. She’s done it in all innocence.
‘She brought [the drugs] to help someone, to help a family.’
She added: ‘She’s the kindest person… I was worried about her before, [when she was] in the police station. I’m even more worried now she’s in actual prison with real criminals.
‘I feel sick – I’m so frightened for her.’
She has now been transferred to a police station, from which she will be sent to jail.
The sentence, however, can be changed as the case progresses through the Egyptian legal system.
It is expected to take a minimum of one month for the second stage of the case to begin. The family said her lawyers lodged an immediate appeal.
Ms Plummer’s sister, Rachel, said their mother Roberta was ‘devastated’ by the sentence.
Laura Plummer’s previous jail – and the prison she has been sent to
Laura Plummer was arrested at Hurghada International Airport on October 9 when police discovered she was carrying Tramadol and Naproxen in her suitcase.
She was then held in a communal cell in Hurghada packed with 25 other women.
Her cell was 15ft by 15ft, her family said, and – they claim – full of ‘murderers, heroin addicts and prostitutes’.
Her sister Jayne Synclair told The Mirror she was being ‘targeted’ by other inmates because she is foreign.
Jayne said: ‘To give you an idea of the place Laura is staying in – this woman [a woman alleged to be caring for Laura] is locked up for slitting her best friend’s throat.’
She added: ‘She’s a target in there because she’s a foreigner.
‘She was being kicked and kicked until apparently the cell leader started watching her.’
Al Jazeera, which is based in nearby Qatar, also published a more general story about the state of Egyptian prisons in 2014. Toilets were a hole in the ground with a curtain for privacy
In shocking videos leaked to the TV channel, jails in the country were shown to be cramped and dirty
Al-Monitor , meanwhile, has reported that female prisoners in Egypt face regular sexual harassment and abuse by guards at jails. Pictured: A grab from a video obtained by Al Jazeera
Prisons in Egypt have been repeatedly exposed as hellishly filthy. Pictured: The windows at one prison
Jayne has also said Ms Plummer has threatened to kill herself because of the ‘repulsive’ conditions in the prison, which has no toilet or air conditioning.
She reportedly relieves herself in a hole in the ground.
Now she has been sent to Qena prison, which is notorious for its cramped and filthy cells.
Jihadists and other serious criminals are also kept there.
Laura, meanwhile, will have to pay for the food she eats and family will only be able to visit once a fortnight.
Describing the conditions in the Qena prison, her sister Jayne said: ‘I’ve seen pictures and if you kept a dog in there and the RSPCA saw it – you would lose your dog. It’s honestly THAT bad.’
Prisons in Egypt have been repeatedly exposed as hellishly filthy by journalists and rights groups.
Al Jazeera interviewed an inmate from al-Qanater prison – which is used for both political prisoners and for regular criminals – who said it was ‘full of cockroaches’ and ‘disgusting’.
She said everything was dirty and she regularly felt intimidated by other prisoners.
Pictured: Al-Qanater prison, where Ms Plummer could be sent by the Egyptian court
Esraa el-Taweel told the broadcaster: ‘The prison is scary and horrible. A different world – some [prisoners] are caught for using drugs, some for being prostitutes, some for pickpocketing, and others for stealing public funds.
‘I have seen strange people and heard very strange stories. This cell is disgusting, full of cockroaches. Everything here is disgusting and life here is very difficult.’
Al Jazeera, which is based in nearby Qatar, also published a more general story about the state of Egyptian prisons in 2014.
In shocking videos leaked to the TV channel, jails in the country were shown to be cramped and dirty.
Toilets were a hole in the ground with a curtain for privacy.
Al-Monitor, meanwhile, has reported that female prisoners in Egypt face regular sexual harassment and abuse by guards at jails.
She said the family was trying to find out more details about what happened in the courtroom.
She said: ‘My mum’s obviously devastated. She’s out there by herself.’ She added that she did not know whether the appeal would be heard today.
She said: ‘We’re just hoping. Even half of that would be better. Anything less than three years. She doesn’t deserve that.’
Ms Plummer’s MP Karl Turner said the ruling had come as a devastating blow to her family but he was hopeful that good sense would eventually prevail.
Miss Plummer, left, could face 25 years in prison with no parole, life imprisonment or even the death penalty
He said her case had been raised with the Egyptian authorities by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and the Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt.
‘I am hopeful that good sense will eventually prevail,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s The World At One.
‘This is a damning indictment actually of the Egyptian authorities in the sense that good sense and fairness certainly hasn’t prevailed in this case.
‘This is a decent woman who has made a terrible mistake who shouldn’t be incarcerated in any prison, never mind an Egyptian prison.’
Neville Plummer, Laura’s father, said his daughter is ‘on the verge of a breakdown’ after the sentencing.
‘The family are all absolutely devastated for Laura. It has been very distressing for everyone involved, but we have got to stay strong for Laura,’ he said.
‘The last time I spoke to Laura was two days after she was arrested.. To be honest, I think she was sentenced on the day she was arrested.
‘This has been drawn out and dragged on and on, and in a way a line has now been drawn in the sand and things can only get better.’
‘We have now got to stay positive for Laura,’ Mr Plummer said.
‘I will leave no stone unturned, and will let no money stand in the way of getting her the justice she needs.
‘She pleaded guilty to the trafficking when she did not even mean to plead guilty that is not justice, that is an injustice.
‘I will never give up with the help. It is a very sad day for the family, at what should be a happy time of the year.’
Mr Plummer praised the work of the lawyers and legal teams who had represented Laura during the hearing.
He also said Hull East MP Karl Turner had been very supportive of Laura, and was continuing in his work to help the Hull woman.
Mr Turner said: ‘I am hopeful that good sense will eventually prevail.
‘This is a damning indictment actually of the Egyptian authorities in the sense that good sense and fairness certainly hasn’t prevailed in this case.
‘This is a decent woman who has made a terrible mistake who shouldn’t be incarcerated in any prison, never mind an Egyptian prison.’
Yesterday her lawyer said she had ‘accidentally’ pleaded guilty during a hearing.
Her mother Roberta Synclair travelled to Egypt for the Christmas Day hearing.
Her lawyer Dia al-Bassal said Ms Plummer was asked yesterday: ‘You are accused of smuggling and possessing Tramadol to Egypt?’
She then replied ‘yes’, with the judge ensuring the clerk recorded she had ‘confessed’ to the crime.
But when her translator explained what the question was, she denied being guilty of the charge.
Mr Bassal told The Telegraph: ‘She meant that she is admitting that she had the Tramadol, but not admitting of being guilty.
‘The judge jumped to the conclusion that she confesses before clarifying that she understood the question and this is worrying.’
Ms Plummer then reportedly wept in frustration, stressing ‘it’s not fair’.
The case revolves around 290 Tramadol Miss Plummer (left) took with her to Egypt for her lover Omar Caboo (right), 33, who suffers from back pain
Her lawyer will submit an explanation today emphasising that she meant to say she had the drug with her but did not intend to sell it.
Her sister Rachel Plummer said the judge adjourned the case for a day because of Laura’s condition.
She said: ‘She’s sleep deprived, she’s visibly nervous and upset.
‘She’s answered some questions wrong because she’s not understanding them, she obviously can’t think straight.
‘You can imagine the pressure – this is her life.’
She said their mother and Mr Caboo were denied access to the hearing as their driver took them to court late.
MP Karl Turner told Sky News yesterday’s hearing was adjourned so that Ms Plummer could find another interpreter.
He said: ‘Apparently something was lost in translation, the defence lawyer wasn’t confident that Laura was understanding the questions first of all, and the interpreter wasn’t correctly translating what Laura was saying in her answers.’
Mr Turner said: ‘The evidence is pretty clear that she didn’t know the drug was banned and she was taking it out there to help her boyfriend, who has come up with the evidence that he does suffer from a severe back problem.’
The Plummer family has previously said she had no idea that what she doing was illegal and was just ‘daft’.
Prison visit: The family of a British woman facing the death penalty in Egypt on drug smuggling charges today paid her an emotional visit in prison
They said she did not try to hide the medicine, which she had been given by a friend, and she thought it was a joke when she was pulled over by officials after arriving for a holiday with her partner.
Mrs Synclair said her daughter was being held in terrible conditions in a communal cell with no beds, sharing with up to 25 other women.
She said she looked ‘unrecognisable’.
Laura’s mother, Roberta Synclair, drove three and a half hours to Qena prison – a notorious jail on the banks of the Nile holding murderers and jihadists – only to be told her daughter was not there. Pictured: Laura and her Egyptian boyfriend, Omar
Ms Plummer is being held in the Red Sea resort of Hurghada, where she was arrested at the airport on October 9.
Her family has been told that she could face up to 25 years in jail, with one lawyer even mentioning the death penalty.
Yesterday her lawyer claimed the price of her plane ticket could set her free.
Mohamed Othman said that a plane ticket shows she did not intend to sell the 290 Tramadol tablets found in her suitcase because she paid twice as much for her flight as the drugs are worth.
Othman called the plane ticket a ‘key piece of evidence’.
He told The Sun: ‘For someone to be found guilty of drug smuggling they have to be aware that they are possessing narcotics. Laura did not know that what she was carrying was a narcotic.
‘It is illogical that she was dealing in Tramadol.She had only 320 pills – even the plane ticket is almost double the price of those pills.’
Plummer wept in court as she appeared in front of a judge on Christmas Day.
Christmas Day is a normal working day in the Islamic country, and the shop assistant from Hull appeared in the dock handcuffed.
Miss Plummer’s mother Roberta Synclair and Mr Caboo arrived late to the courtroom and stood outside.
Mr Caboo, speaking outside of court, was convinced Miss Plummer would be freed.
He told MailOnline: ‘I am sure Laura is innocent. She did not bring the Tramadol for selling or trading.
‘I am sure she will be freed. She did not intend to do smuggle or trade.’
When Miss Plummer was arrested on October 9, she signed a 38-page document written in Arabic as she thought it would grant her freedom.
It led to her being locked up and she has already spent ten weeks in prison sharing a 15ft square cell with 25 women inmates.
Last month, her mother Roberta Synclair said: ‘She did not realise what she was doing’.
She said Ms Plummer made no attempt to hide the medicine, which she had been given by a friend, and she thought it was a joke when she was first pulled over by officials when she flew into the country for a holiday with Mr Caboo.
Laura Plummer, left, is being held by Egyptian authorities after taking Tramadol into the country