Brit shares ordeal of ‘hell hole’ African prison with loo in wall of 10-man cell

A British hotelier who was locked up in a squalid cell in a 300 year old 'hell hole' prison, on the paradise island of Zanzibar, has spoken about his ordeal.

Simon Wood was arrested on money-laundering charges alongside his wife Francesca Scalfari after falling out with the investors who helped finance a hotel they were developing.

The 51-year-old had his head shaved and food probed by guards' fingers, and he was crammed into a cell of ten, with dangerous criminals serving sentences for violent offences including murder.

READ MORE: Torturer dies in cell after prison guards waited 14 minutes to call ambulance

Simon Wood, was jailed alongside his Italian wife Francesca, 45, on the West African Island, located in the Indian Ocean, just over two weeks ago.

But today his ordeal is over, for now at least, after lawyers persuaded a judge to dismiss the most serious criminal charges that were levelled against the pair.

During his ordeal Simon slept on a single mattress with another inmate and was forced to defecate through a hole in his cramped cell.

Simon and his wife still face nine financial related charges, which he claims stem from a 'quarrel' over money with ex-investors in his resort, the Sharazād Boutique Hotel.

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But yesterday, he said it was a relief that a judge had granted him bail, adding that he and his wife were ready to defend themselves in court on future occasions.

He said that they were 'floating' but shocked their case has gone from a civil one to a criminal one.

Simon added that it separated them from family and affected their 11-year-old son, and elderly parents.

“I’m talking about it in the past now, which is a great relief, but it was difficult,” he said.

Simon, who was born in Preston, Lancs., but has lived on Zanzibar for 20 years, said he found out about the charges against him and his wife about a month ago.

The couple then worked to lobby high-level officials in the regional government, but after his pleas failed, the pair were forced to hand themselves in to police.

Simon was locked inside the ancient Kilimani prison – built by Portuguese colonisers roughly 300 years ago – on June 7 where he was subjected to squalid conditions.

He said: "I was taken there and strip-searched. "

"My wife was in a separate place where the women are.

“On the male side, there are around 600 inmates and about 450 are on remand."

"We were locked in for 14 hours a day, from 4:30 pm to around 6 am, at daybreak," he said

"There’s a hole in the wall which is the toilet, basically.

“The prison was built by the Portuguese in the 1700s, and it’s not really changed much to be frank.”

Simon’s money laundering charges meant that under local laws he could be kept in jail – without bail – for up to eight months while awaiting a trial, but claimed this was a 'tactic' as there was little chance of either of them being prosecuted for them.

He said: “Every step of the way, the public prosecution department's tactic was to delay because they knew if we went to judgement, we’d be freed.

“So it was just about keeping us inside on remand.”


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