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In 1993 Sandra Gregory was arrested at Bangkok Airport, carrying 89 grams of heroin. Foolishly, Sandra had become involved in this illicit venture in the hope of earning £1,000 to pay for her air ticket home to Britain and presents for the family members she hadn't seen for so long. Instead she received a 25-year jail term. Her co-accused, Robert Lock, was acquitted despite having been the organiser of the drugs run, according to Sandra. The title of the book, 'Forget you had a Daughter' refers to a moving letter that Sandra wrote to her parents shortly after her arrest, apologising for the shame she had brought upon them.
Sandra spent 4 years in Bangkok's notorious Lard Yao prison, otherwise known as the 'Bangkok Hilton', before being transferred to a British prison and eventually being pardoned by the King of Thailand and released in 2000. This book tells her story. It is not a protestation of innocence. On the contrary, Sandra pleaded guilty and never tried to justify what she did or make excuses. Not only is it a salient warning to anyone who might be tempted to become involved in drug trafficking, but it is also a story of the resilience of the human spirit in the face of despair. I found it a compelling read.
The book begins with a description of Sandra nervously pacing the platforms of the Bangkok railway station, where she is waiting to meet her co-conspirator, Robert Lock in order to smuggle heroin into Tokyo. It is an extremely dramatic opening chapter, portraying the dilemma in Sandra's mind. I found myself willing her to walk away, to get rid of the drugs that she had secreted within her body and forget the whole stupid plan, even though I knew that wasn't going to be the case. The tension in that opening chapter was conveyed incredibly well. I could really imagine what it must have been like on the slow journey to the airport on the crowded, airless train, perspiring in the heat. The suspense builds and builds until Sandra and Lock reach the airport check-in and the Thai Customs descend on them, "like vultures fighting over a dead carcass." The nightmare begins and I knew from this point onwards that I was going to keep turning the pages.
One of the things I found fascinating about this book was the vivid description of Thailand - the culture, the people, the landscape and the food. Although it would become associated forever with the squalid prison where Sandra experienced 4 years of living hell, this was also the country she fell in love with. I was intrigued by the contrasting descriptions of Bangkok - pulsating with seediness and gaudy tourism - and the primitive villages in northern Thailand - wooden houses on stilts, pigs and chickens scratching in the dust and ragged children. There are descriptions of beautiful beaches and the serenity of life on the islands, which are contrasted with the corruption that is rife in the city. We are left with a clear impression of a country that is exotic yet tawdry, beautiful yet dangerous. I knew very little about Thailand but the book set the scene in a way that totally drew me in.
The horrors of prison life are graphically portrayed with references to crowded cells, huge bald rats, weird insects, including "2 inch flying cockroaches", the smells, the 30-minute queues to use the toilets each morning, the harsh fluorescent strip lights that are never switched off and the gritty, disgusting prison diet. She describes the way the black market operates within the prison and the violence meted out to those who fail to pay debts. Some of the detail is truly shocking, such as the accounts of the thrashings and degrading punishments handed out by the guards for minor transgressions. It is definitely not for the faint hearted!
There are accounts of weird, deranged prisoners, such as the cannibal who is head cook in the prisoners' kitchen. We also discover that there are as many cats in Lard Yao prison as there are prisoners and, for many of the women, these cats are their most treasured companions. (Whilst some prisoners get their families to send them perfume and makeup from home, Sandra requests boxes of cat food!
Although much of the detail in this book was disturbing, it was a fascinating account of Sandra Gregory's plight. Although it became slightly less interesting to me once Sandra transferred from Thailand to a British jail, there was still plenty of though-provoking material which made me aware that our own penal system is not without its faults either.
It is a book that evokes conflicting emotions. On the one hand I felt anger towards Sandra for bringing such heartache upon her family. On the other, I respected her for the way she accepted responsibility and made the best of her dire situation. Her aching homesickness and sense of loss was often expressed, but she never became self-pitying. Reading the book did feel a little bit like I was going through the experience with her, sharing her low points and, when she was finally reunited with her parents who had campaigned tirelessly for her release, sharing her elation.
Whatever you may think on a moral level, this is a book about human weakness and human strength. It is about the mistakes we make and how we pay for them. Much as I disapprove of Sandra's crime, I genuinely felt that she had used her experiences in a positive way and become a better person. Therefore, although it is undeniably a harrowing read at times, it ends on an uplifting note.
This book was bought for me by a family member and i am so glad. The book entails the life of Sandra Gregory and the real circumstances she was faced with when she decided to smuggle drugs from thailand. Sandra had gotten herself in debt and decided this was the best way to solve her problems. This however was never going to be the case and was only the begining of her personal turmoil. After being caught by authorities at the airport, Sandra was locked away in a Thailand prison and experience her own living hell due to her mistakes. This book gives a personal account of an individual's experience in prison due to a crime they were guilty of. It gives such a personal account that you can not help but be drawn in. The book is full of raw emotion and touches your heart and soul by bringing to light the topic at hand. Could barely put down this book and even after having read it, i cannot stop thinking about it. The story stays with you and makes you think twice of how good life on the outside actually really is. Although Sandra did break the law she has definately paid her due and then some.
In 1993 Sandra Gregory was arrested at Bangkok airport for attempting to smuggle 89g of heorin aboard a plane to Japan.
Forget You Had A Daughter, is her memoir of the events leading to her arrest, and her subsequent stay at Lard Yao prison in Bangkok and Later Holloway and Durham prison in the UK.
Having left school with no formal qualifications Sandra Gregory decided to travel to Thailand in 1990. Once there she lived happily for over two years, however in 1993 a mixture of illness, unemployment, lack of funds and political unrest caused Sandra to feel she needed to return home.
Reluctant to appear a failure in the eyes of her family, yet desperate for a way out Sandra aggred to smuggle a heroin addicts personal supply (89g) of heroin out of the country for him, in return for £1000.
Sandra never made it on the plane, she was discovered by customs officials and arrested.
In this book she details her trial in Thailand and her four years as a prisoner in Lard Yao, later when she is transfererd to the British prison system she talks of Holloway prison and also Durham Prison where she served time along side the infamous Rosemary West.
Yet the book is so much more than the simple story of her time in prison, she is painfully honest about her feelings of guilt and grief, how much she missed her family and how ashamed she was of herself. At times she is in deep depression.
The tittle "Forget You Had A Daughter" is a exert from a letter she wrote her parents, willing them to forget her as she felt she had caused them so much pain that she no longer deserved them.
Sandra was sentenced to death, which the judge reduced to 25 years. This was for a crime that had she commited in England would have warrented a 2 year sentence.
Sandra claims to feel no anger towards her treatment, she says it was a blessing in disguise. However there are moments in this book where you feel she has allowed herself to wallow a little in her self pity. She is indignant that the British governement never campaigned for her release yet they did gor the release of other british prisoners.
Following 8 years of relentless campaigning by Sandras parents she was granted an official pardon by the King of Thailand, and released in 2001.
Having been released from prison Sandra spent a year travelling senior schools in the country talking to 6th form students about her experinces, in the hope they would heed her warning.
Its hard to describe this book, its a sad sad story about a good woman who made a mistake and paid for it very very heavily. Yet it is also the story of a drug smuggeler who got caught and quite rightly had to pay for it.
This is such a complx story that it is hard to do it justice here, its about love, betrayel, justice, strength, honesty, hope, disception and everything in between.
The book is quite well written, but makes uncomfortable reading at times as it challanges your morals, your sense of right and wrong.
The RRP of this book is £7.99, but it is currently selling in HMV for £2.99.
I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in real life stories, although you dont always sympathise with Sandra she tells stories about prison life that cant fail to shock you and sadden you.
The A-format edition of the Sunday Times Bestseller in which Sandra Gregory relates her experiences of her time spent in prison in Thailand and Britain after she was caught smuggling heroin. Brutally truthful, this is the unforgettable story of a good woman who made a mistake that changed the rest of her life. A world-wide publication date ensures publicity including a 3 page feature in Marie Claire. The book will be submitted for summer bookstore promotions.