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Last Updated: Friday, 18 November 2005, 17:02 GMT
Drug charge sailor returns home
John Packwood
John Packwood was released from jail in Morocco on Thursday
A British yachtsman detained in jail in Morocco and Spain over drugs charges for more than a year has returned home after being freed by a royal pardon.

John Packwood, 42, a marine engineer from the Isle Of Wight, was facing charges of drug trafficking and associating with criminals.

But Mr Packwood was released after receiving a pardon from the king of Morocco and flew to the UK on Friday.

"The fact my destiny was in the hands of others was frustrating," he said.

I only knew it was over when I went to the police station and they told me I was being released, I just felt jubilation
Mr Packwood

"The whole thing with prison is, especially in a foreign country, the communication and the lack of communication.

"I really didn't know what was going on, how things were progressing.

"The fact that my own destiny was in the hands of others was very frustrating.

"But saying that, I was reassured by Jason McCue (his lawyer) that I wasn't going to be forgotten and this wasn't going to go away for the Moroccans.

"I only knew it was over when I went to the police station and they told me I was being released.

"I just felt jubilation. People say they cannot believe I got a pardon, but I can, because that was what we were always working towards all this time."

'Totally innocent man'

Mr Packwood's lawyer said the pardon was a complete vindication: "It is saying there is no evidence for a trial to go ahead and shows complete clemency.

"He is a totally innocent man and his record is totally clear."

Mr Packwood joked that his holiday in Spain had been "pretty bad" and "lasted a lot longer than he expected".

Then went on to describe the "terrible" conditions of the Moroccan jail he was held in.

"Just think of a medieval dungeon with no furniture and just a mat on the floor to sit on," said Mr Packwood.

"The cell door was only opened for an hour a day and one cell I stayed in contained 14 people, packed in like sardines."

Just think of a medieval dungeon with no furniture and just a mat on the floor to sit on
Mr Packwood

The yachtsman had always maintained his innocence, but three weeks ago a judge had ruled that he should stand trial.

Thursday's pardon was among a number granted by King Mohammed VI to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Morocco's independence.

About 12,000 other prisoners were also released at the same time.

Mr Packwood had been held in a Spanish jail since October 2004, before being extradited to Morocco in September.

He delivered a yacht with three other crew members from the UK to the purchasers in Morocco in April 1997.

Four Colombians later used the same boat for a deal involving six tonnes of cocaine.

Mr Packwood did not know that a warrant had been issued for his arrest until he arrived in Spain last October for a holiday.

He said the support of his girlfriend, Jane Amestoy, his family and his friends had kept him going.

"I really believe that without all the support back home in England I could have spent many years locked up, rotting away in jail."


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