From Down Under to Bangkok Hilton: An Aussie woman’s harrowing tale

Photo courtesy of Holly Deane-Johns via Daily Star UK

An Australian woman who spent seven gruelling years in a Thai prison for heroin trafficking revealed the appalling conditions she endured in the so-called Bangkok Hilton.

Holly Deane-Johns, then 29, was caught trying to mail a parcel of heroin to her family in Perth. Facing the death penalty, she was instead sentenced to 31 years in the infamous Lardyao Women’s Correctional Institution.

Speaking to Gary Jubelin from the True Crime Australia podcast, Holly described the horrific overcrowding.

“When I arrived, more than 100 Thai women were sitting on blankets. I asked if anyone spoke English, and one woman raised her hand. She found me a spot to sleep, but there was literally no visible floor space.”

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The woman instructed others to lie down, revealing a sliver of the floor about nine inches wide.

“That was my bed for the next 31 years.”

Prisoners had to bring their own essentials.

“Some couldn’t afford blankets. I bought a couple and folded them to sleep on.”

From Down Under to Bangkok Hilton: An Aussie woman's harrowing tale | News by Thaiger
Picture of Holly Deane-Johns courtesy of Instagram

Holly detailed the primitive conditions.

“In my section, there were 2,000 women and only 10 toilets in the yard. Fights over sleeping spots and washing facilities were common. As soon as cell doors opened, it was a stampede to the trough of cold water. You had to strip naked before the doors opened, or others would pull at your clothes to slow you down.”

Her first shower was almost violent.

“A trustee looked like she’d hit me with a metal bar for being slow, but I made it clear I’d fight back. We later became friends, and she let me store my blankets safely.”

Holly faced constant stress and frequent fights.

“My first fight was with a friend, and I don’t even know what it was about. It was that crazy.”

Dealing with the open toilets was another ordeal.

“There was no privacy. I didn’t use the toilet for a month because I was so embarrassed. Eventually, I realised I had to adapt. I decided to live like a Thai.”

She once had a rotting tooth pulled by an inmate. Later, she secured a better sleeping spot under a precarious TV.

“I knew it might fall and hurt me, but it was worth the risk for a decent place to sleep.”

After a long campaign, Holly was transferred to an Australian prison in 2007, serving another five years before her release in 2012, reported Daily Star UK.

She has since authored a book, Holly’s Hell, detailing her harrowing experience in the Bangkok Hilton.

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Puntid Tantivangphaisal

Originally from Hong Kong, Puntid moved to Bangkok in 2020 to pursue further studies in translation. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Comparative Literature from the University of Hong Kong. Puntid spent 8 years living in Manchester, UK. Before joining The Thaiger, Puntid has been a freelance translator for 2 years. In her free time, she enjoys swimming and listening to music, as well as writing short fiction and poetry.

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