Sandra Gregory visits for latest Look Out lecture

Sandra Gregory, who spent time in a Thailand prison, visited Forest on Thursday 20 April to speak to sixth formers as part of the latest Look Out lecture.

From teacher to drug smuggler, convict, author and graduate, Sandra has led a truly remarkable – at times terrifying. A life of notoriety, shame and eventual redemption which she candidly shared with our pupils in a talk which was by turns harrowing, poignant and humorous.

According to the former BBC foreign correspondent and MP Martin Bell OBE, “Sandra Gregory has a story to tell. It is the story of an ordeal that would have broken most people and came close to breaking her. Its redeeming features are her courage and resilience, and the love and loyalty of her family.’

Sandra spent two years travelling around Thailand and living in Bangkok, working as an English language teacher. Suffering a bout of dengue fever, Gregory was unable to work; her money was running out and she was desperate to return to the UK. She met and became friends with an Englishman who offered her £1000 to carry 89 grams of heroin on a flight to Tokyo for him.

Following a tip-off to the authorities, she was searched at Bangkok Airport and the drugs were found. Initially she was given the death penalty, but this was commuted to life and then 25 years imprisonment.

Gregory was held at Bangkok’s Klong Prem Central Prison, notorious for its brutality, drug abuse, squalid conditions and severe overcrowding, for four years. Klong Prem was the size of a football pitch and housed 3,000 women, with up to 70 inmates in a cell, washing in open sewers.

After spending four years in Lard Yao, Gregory was transferred at her choice to Britain in 1997, where she was imprisoned in a maximum-security prison, to complete the remainder of her 21-year sentence. After years of campaigning by her parents for her release, the King of Thailand granted Gregory a Royal Pardon in 2000. She wrote a book about her experiences, Forget You Had a Daughter, before securing a place at Oxford University to study geography.

Speaking about the talk, Diploma Coordinator Mr Tom Burnside said: ‘Sandra’s talk was a cautionary tale involving the excitement of travel, the irresponsibility of youth, risk-taking and terrible punishment.

‘But it is also a tale of redemption, of bouncing back from one of the worst ordeals any of us could imagine, and of piecing a broken life together in the most trying of circumstances.

‘This was a fascinating and highly thought-provoking lecture and a testament to the power of the human spirit to overcome great adversity.’