Family of 33-year-old Hull woman say she brought 290 tramadol tablets into country for husband to use for bad back
Laura Plummer was arrested in October after the tablets were found in her suitcase. Photograph: Family handout/PA
A shop assistant from Hull has been sentenced to three years in an Egyptian jail after she was convicted of smuggling drugs into Egypt.
Laura Plummer, 33, has already been detained for nearly three months after she was arrested on suspicion of trafficking drugs at Hurghada international airport on the Red Sea coast, by customs officers who found 290 tramadol tablets in her luggage.
Tramadol, a highly potent synthetic opioid, is a controlled substance in Egypt, meaning it can only be prescribed by medical professionals, but it is often obtained illegally and is said to be the country’s most abused drug.
“Three years. I can’t believe it. We are devastated,” Plummer’s sister, Rachel Plummer, told the Guardian, adding: “We had all the evidence showing her innocence.”
Plummer’s family said her partner, Omar Caboo, had previously presented medical records that they said proved he suffered from long-term back problems requiring pain medication.
Asked whether she felt confident that the British government would be able to help free her sister now she had been sentenced, Rachel said she was not hopeful. “They would have done so by now, surely?” she said.
Rachel added that she was rushing to visit her sister in Egypt as soon as possible. “I can’t believe this is happening. It’s so unfair,” she said.
British diplomats have felt unable to intervene until after Plummer’s sentencing. However, the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, had assured Plummer’s MP, Karl Turner, that he would continue to do everything he could to help Plummer and her family.
In a statement on Tuesday, Turner called Plummer’s sentence a “massive blow” to her family. He said it was clear that the “decent, honest and hard-working Hull woman” was not a drug trafficker and would not have understood the dangers of taking the substance into the country.
“Now that the judicial process has completed I have no doubt that Foreign Office ministers will be making representations to their Egyptian ministerial counterparts to see what can be done to bring this shocking saga to an end,” he said. “Laura’s defence team are currently considering whether they should appeal and they have 60 days to lodge that appeal. I’m hoping good sense will finally prevail.”
Plummer’s lawyer, Mohamed Osman, confirmed the sentence to the Guardian on Tuesday morning. He has argued that Plummer did not traffic the tramadol but brought it in for her partner’s use.
The sentencing comes a day after proceedings were postponed because a mistaken translation caused the judge to believe Plummer had confessed to trafficking the opioid painkiller.
Plummer was first arrested on 9 October after a scan of her bags revealed she was carrying a large supply of tramadol. She was later forced to sign a 38-page confession document in Arabic, which she does not read or understand.
Her family has said Plummer had no idea that what she doing was illegal and was just “daft”.
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 Caboo, to whom she has been married for 18 months and whom she visits several times a year.
Tramadol is the most abused drug in Egypt, according to a minister, and authorities have staged a crackdown in recent years to prevent widespread misuse. The synthetic is often obtained illegally and used as a heroin substitute.
Egypt’s drug control fund, which has a free helpline, received more calls about tramadol than any other drug in August, according to Ghada Wali, the minister for social solidarity. It received 48,000 calls between January and June for issues regarding the drug.