A charity boss who played a key role in the fight to return an abducted schoolgirl to her mother in Birmingham is languishing in a Thai prison.
Sean Felton, from Norton Canes, near Cannock , is enduring the cramped conditions and sweltering heat of notorious Sakhon Nakon prison after being arrested while helping another desperate parent find his child.
Norton Canes councillor Zaphne Stretton, who has received a message from Sean, said: “He’s not doing too good.
He’s not in the best of minds.”
Sean, a painter and decorator, has been holed-up in Sakon Nakhon since February 21 after he and Edinburgh dad Jodie Smith were arrested at Bangkok airport.
Mr Smith was trying to bring home nine-year-old son Joleon, allegedly snatched by his Thai wife Jintra Jummaimuang Smith four months ago.
It is understood both have been charged with trespassing at Jintra’s home. They deny committing the offence.
Sean is no stranger to the dangers of scouring remote, often lawless, regions for lost children.
It was a mission he made his life’s work after bringing his own son, Jobe, back from the dank wilderness of a Thai jungle community in 2010.
But, unlike some others in his field of work, Sean is not gung-ho.
He is acutely aware of the perils, aware overseas authorities may be uncooperative when splitting one of their own from their child.
Jobe, now 11-years-old, is being cared for by Sean’s mother in nearby Hednesford.
In his rescue work, Sean plays it by the book.
Our own search for 14-year-old Mariam, taken by her Egyptian father, through the rat maze of Cairo’s backstreets was fraught.
Sean provided constant good counsel.
We were forced to switch hotels, we were tailed and, in the shadow of the pyramids, forced out of our cab by police, the nuzzle of their shotguns tapping against the vehicle’s window.
As we emerged from the taxi, I announced grandly, flourishing my journalistic credentials: “I’m a reporter from England.”
Sean smiled and said softly: “Possibly the worst thing you could’ve said, Mike.”
He was aware of the diplomacy needed.
Scottish newspapers have reported Jodie Smith’s family are now attempting to raise £5,000 to free him from Sakon Nakhon.
He faces an additional and much more serious charge of abduction.
His mother Lidia Smith, aged 67, said: “This isn’t justice. I can’t believe this is happening to us. I just want my son and grandson back. This is a living nightmare.”
It is a nightmare shared by Sean.
Erdington MP Jack Dromey, who was instrumental in returning Mariam to Britain, voiced his concern.
He said: “There are many families reunited thanks to Sean Felton. And the biggest smile I have ever seen belonged to Miriam. I am deeply concerned by the news you’ve given me.”