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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 January, 2004, 19:29 GMT
Bomb joke was 'foolish mistake'
Samantha Marson
Samantha Marson is said to have repeated the joke twice
A 21-year-old British student who was arrested at an American airport after joking she had a bomb in her bags has said she is "very sorry".

Samantha Marson was released on Wednesday after a visit by British consular officials and payment of a bond of $5,000 (2,700).

She told the BBC she had made a "foolish mistake".

Miss Marson triggered a security alert as she boarded a British Airways flight from Miami to Britain on Saturday.

I wasn't thinking, that was my problem
Samantha Marson

She was told to return to court on 6 February for an an arraignment hearing, when there will be a formal reading of the charge that she made a false bomb report, an offence that carries a 15 year jail sentence.

BBC correspondent Jeremy Cooke, in Miami, said Miss Marson was "clearly delighted" to have been released.

He understood she was free to return to the UK because she had not been required to surrender her passport, although a spokesman for the public defender's office said their advice to Miss Marson was to stay in the US until the issue was resolved.

Asked what was she thinking when she made the bomb claim, the student replied: "I wasn't thinking, that was my problem."

'In a daze'

She said she hoped to be allowed to return to the UK and be allowed back into the US in the future.

Her father said she was childish and not very worldly.

Jim Marson, 75, originally from Bridgnorth in Shropshire, told BBC Radio 4's PM programme that when he spoke to her she seemed to be in a daze, asking: "Daddy, what did I do, why am I here?"

I did have a telephone call from Richard Branson who said that he was abroad but he had picked up this story about my daughter and he felt very sorry that she had had so much stress
Jim Marson

He agreed that her comments were stupid, but said a slap on the wrist or a night in prison and $100 fine would have been enough.

"Although Samantha will be sorry for what she said, I just hope it won't leave any scars," he said.

Mr Marson, who lives in Poland, said a businessman in the Midlands had put up the money for his daughter's bail.

Later it emerged that Virgin chairman Sir Richard Branson had also offered to help Miss Marson - whether financially or with airline tickets - after hearing of her jailing.

Mr Marson said the tycoon telephoned and said he wanted to assist "not as Richard Branson, the owner of an airline, but as Richard Branson as a father".

According to the arrest report, Miss Marson placed her bag on the belt at a security check, telling a Transportation Security Administration screener: "Hey be careful, I have three bombs in here" - before allegedly repeating the joke twice more when confronted by officials.

State law

Sergeant Joe Wyche from Miami Airport Police told BBC Midlands Today that officers had been left with no choice but to arrest Miss Marson.

"First of all, it's a violation of our state law.

"Before 9/11 we took it seriously - after 9/11 there's no room for kidding or joking, if that's the person's intention, so it's taken in a serious manner."

Sgt Wyche added: "There's no room for playing games at security checkpoints.

"I'm sure probably over in Britain if similar comments are made it's not laughed upon."

She had been in the US for three months with her American boyfriend and was returning to the UK to renew her visa when she was detained.

The BBC's Jeremy Cooke
"The end of a nightmare"

US 'bomb joke' student released
21 Jan 04  |  Shropshire
Bomb 'joke' student jailed
20 Jan 04  |  Shropshire
Teenager barred from flight
14 Mar 03  |  England
'Joke' threats discouraged
19 Feb 03  |  England

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