IT was a carefully stage-managed photoshoot designed to counter claims that Egyptian authorities are subjecting a British citizen to a living nightmare.

But the shocking pictures of Laura Plummer did the opposite.

With a puffy face and chalk-white skin, 33-year-old Laura was a shadow of the glamorous woman thrown into a Cairo jail for carrying banned Tramadol pills six months ago.

For her tearful mum Roberta Synclair, 63, the minute-long clip of her little girl — posted on YouTube by an Egyptian TV channel this week — is unbearable viewing.

She told The Sun from her home in Hull: “She looks like a corpse with make-up on. She’s dead. You can see it in her eyes. There’s nothing left of her — no sparkle, nothing.

“She’s shock-white and her face is all puffy from crying. It’s destroying me to see her like this. I’m dying inside and we, her family, are serving the sentence with her.”


The video of shop assistant Laura is the first time she has been pictured since her arrest last October at Hurghada airport, on the Red Sea.

It is part of a desperate attempt by the Egyptian Interior Ministry to prove to the outside world that Laura is being well cared for, amid calls for her immediate release.

I'm amazed she has survived this long

 

But sat on a pew in a makeshift prison church, and wearing white, prison-issue jilbab, Laura, also from Hull, is almost unrecognisable from the fun-loving woman who posed happily for the camera during previous times abroad.


And it is little wonder she looks so drastically altered, given the horrendous ordeal she is enduring inside the notorious Al Qanater prison.

As she vividly described the conditions to her mum: “At my worst point I begged God to stop my heart. Then I wondered if I was actually dead and this was hell.”

In her first, cramped cell, Laura had to pile up sanitary towels to use as a pillow.

She has since been moved to join dozens of other women crammed into large, hut-like cells where rickety five-tiered bunk beds line the walls.


Hers is the drugs hut — for those convicted of narcotics offences — and she sleeps on the fourth bunk up.

She has to pay to sleep there, with a monthly rent of Cleopatra cigarettes provided by her family.

Her daily routine is mind-numbingly dull, surrounded by the constant noise of chattering cellmates but isolated by the language barrier.

She is woken at 7am and spends the day sitting on the floor in blistering heat. Inmates are not allowed back on to the bunks until 11pm, when they must go to sleep. The lights, however, stay on.

Although she is allowed out into a sprawling yard for exercise, the sheer numbers of inmates make it hard for her to move around.

For Laura, there is little else to do but sob. The constant crying, along with a monotonous daily diet of bread and water, are what have caused her shockingly bloated face.

Mum Roberta said: “This is alien to Laura. She said she’s forgotten what it’s like to fall asleep in the dark.

“When she goes to the canteen she is always accompanied by a guard.

“He sits with her while she has food then takes her back to the cell. He doesn’t let her talk to anyone.

“I’m amazed she’s survived this long. She’s in a foreign country, in prison, doesn’t speak any Arabic and is all alone.”

Roberta has flown to Egypt repeatedly since Laura was taken prisoner.

She and Laura’s six siblings are allowed to visit every 30 days and have been doing so ever since she was convicted in December.

Roberta said: “I can’t do anything to alleviate her suffering — all I can do is try to convince her that everything will be OK.

“For now she’s got to look after herself — and that breaks my heart.”

The mum has also taken in supplies — including black M&S “granny” knickers, to Laura’s embarrassment.

At first she used to take plastic bags full of sweets, magazines and newspapers.

But these have now been replaced by cigarettes to use as currency inside the jail and practical items such as a jug to wash with.

During a recent visit Laura told her mum: “I spend my time in here counting the days. I tick them off.

“I won’t ever get my hopes up but I so want this to be over soon.

“One of the girls said you can hear the death row inmates screaming as they’re led away to be hanged.”

She had no idea what she was doing wrong

It is an appalling punishment for what was a simple mistake.

Laura was arrested when she arrived at Hurghada to visit her husband, former lifeguard Omar Saad, 33, who also has an Egyptian wife.

He has a bad back and so she packed him 300 Tramadol tablets, unaware that the powerful pills, which are sometimes used as a heroin substitute, are illegal in Egypt.

While the pills are legal in the UK they are only available on prescription, so a work colleague who has a prescription gave her the supply.

Ignorant of Egypt’s laws, she popped the pills in a clear plastic bag at the very top of her other luggage — mainly bikinis and sarongs — and headed off.

She was stunned when she was arrested for having them.

And while she was cleared of charges of smuggling, she was jailed for the minimum sentence of three years for possession.

Laura has appealed against her conviction but the hearing is unlikely to be held until later this year.
Roberta said: “Laura had no idea what she was doing was wrong.

“There was no way of her knowing that Tramadol was banned in Egypt.

“The Foreign Office website was not updated until after her arrest and the travel company offered no warnings. There was no way she could have known. Why didn’t they just take the Tramadol tablets from her at the airport, fine her and let her carry on with her holiday?”

There is a growing feeling Laura is being used as political currency.

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Egypt has not forgiven Britain since David Cameron axed all direct flights to its tourist hotspot Sharm El Sheikh in November 2015 after a bomb brought down a Russian jet which had just left the resort’s airport.

One source said: “David Cameron’s flights ban caused fury in Egypt.

“Laura’s detention was a way of pushing back.It also allowed Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi to prove to his opponents that he is no pushover when it comes to the West.”

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