The British media has overwhelmingly angled its reporting of the plight of a 33-year-old British shop girl detained at Egypt’s airport in Hurghada for carrying 300 Tramadol, a powerful painkilling derivative of opium that is ravaging the lives of Egypt’s youth. ‘Facts’ have turned out to be false. Headlines have been sensationalised. Laura Plummer has been overwhelmingly painted as a naive innocent abroad whose only goal was to give relief to her Egyptian ‘husband’ suffering from back pain.
On the other hand, Egyptian authorities are being made out to be the bad guys as though she should have been patted on the back solely due to her nationality whereas the law recognises no passport.
The question is how would British customs officers have reacted had she flown in with a substantial quantity of Tramadol and would she have dared?
“Brit facing death penalty in Egypt speaks out for the first time” was a headline in the Mirror. That is laughable. The lady is in no danger of the rope, reserved for hard core drug dealers.
Initially, the alleged recipient of the tablets, Omar Caboo, a married man with children who worked as a hotel animator, was described by all British dailies as Laura’s husband. Her mother has since revealed that she merely signed a paper – a ‘customary marriage contract not recognised by the state – to permit the couple to “sleep in an apartment together”.
Caboo’s status has now been downgraded to “boyfriend”, “partner” or ‘friend”. Her father maintains she has never had a boyfriend before. She is just a sweet girl who loves watching her favourite soap Emmerdale each night, a young woman who lives for her holidays in the sun with Omar three or four times a year since 2013. On November 9, the Daily Mail reported that she had been abandoned by Caboo “after he vanished from the Red Sea resort” to return to his home in Luxor. Another snippet of untruth! Plummer’s family maintains he has been very supportive, even supplying the court with X-rays taken after his accident that left him with back pain as well as his doctor’s prescriptions.
Not legal in Britain
Another misleading headline in the Mail reads “Laura Plummer will still be jailed in Egypt if innocent”. She is not innocent of the deed. Her intentions may have been honourable and she may have been ignorant of the fact that importing such a huge amount of Tramadol is a crime, but ignorance of the law is no defence anywhere in the world.
The greatest twisting of the truth that’s parroted by numerous tabloids and was repeated by the BBC’s Orla Guerin is that Tramadol is legal in the UK but banned in Egypt. It is not legal in Britain without a prescription.
“Tramadol is a Class C drug and is only available with a prescription from a doctor or other healthcare profession that is qualified to prescribe. As a Class C drug it is illegal for anyone else to supply Tramadol, to have it or to give it away, even to friends.” Penalties range from up to two years imprisonment for using and 14 years for trafficking.
A point that to my knowledge has conveniently not been addressed by UK news outlets is this. Plummer maintains that a colleague who allegedly has a prescription gave her the tablets in a chemist’s bag. Firstly, no doctor would prescribe 300. Secondly, in the event the colleague used a repeat prescription, why did she accumulate the Tramadol without apparently having any need to take them herself? Laura’s parents have now slammed the “selfish woman for withholding evidence” that could free their daughter, according to the Hull Daily Mail. Why aren’t British police investigating that woman to find out whether money changed hands?
“We could get Laura free if we get [the woman] to give us her prescription papers but she is a very selfish woman and is refusing to help…” There is no logic in that because it is illegal to give prescription drugs to someone else, which is probably why the colleague isn’t coming forward.
The irony is that Britain has criticised Egypt’s airports for being lax following the downing of the Russian Metrojet two years ago when flights to Sharm Al Shaikh were terminated. Egypt has since worked with UK security officials and complied with all Britain’s demands; hence the uber-stringent customs checks at all the country’s airports nowadays. Egypt has been forced to get tough on Tramadol, originally imported as a palliative for cancer patients, that has become the recreational drug of choice. Almost 41 per cent of the nation’s addicts are addicted to the ‘opiate of the masses, known to trigger hallucinations and sudden loss of consciousness which in turn cause traffic accidents and deaths.
A British state pathologist told the BBC last March that in the UK there have been more deaths caused by Tramadol than “any other drug at the present time”. There are calls for the drug to be reclassified. There is no doubt Laura is going through hell, alone and fearful. She may have been blinded by love, is being truthful when she says she had no idea what she did was a crime or…. Whatever the truth, only the courts can decide. The UK has now warned its citizens not to travel with restricted medicines without a prescription, a warning long overdue.
Linda S. Heard is an award-winning British political columnist and guest television commentator with a focus on the Middle East.