Paul was living in Thailand, happily married with a young son, running a successful business. But he broke the law – one mistake nearly cost him his life during a 27 month prison sentence in a harsh Thai jail. 

Truthfully I really wish I knew nothing about Prisoners Abroad or prisons in Thailand. Then I wouldn’t have to re-live the horrors of that prison where I spent over two years of my life. I wouldn’t have to remember what it felt like to have rusty shackles bolted around my ankles. To remember the violence. To see again the dead bodies on the floor. To know my son was growing up without his father.

You see, three years ago I had a beautiful life in Thailand – a wife, a young son, friends, and a successful business. I was happy. Then it happened. I’m making no excuses. I broke the law and deserved to be punished but when I explain to you my story I think you’ll agree that no-one should be treated this way.

When I first stepped inside my cell the words that kept going over and over in my head were “welcome to hell”. The stench of bodies hits you like a wall – 100 men packed in a stifling cell meant for 30, one filthy toilet in the corner which we all had to share in view of everyone.

I could feel the hatred, violence and fear in people’s eyes. I saw beatings and stabbings and wondered when my turn would come.

When they hammered rusty metal shackles around my ankles I felt like an animal. I was forced to wear them night and day for three months. My feet became bloody and swollen with infection. Every step was agony.

At night I was too frightened to sleep. My so-called ‘bed’ was a space on a concrete floor, between two chalk lines 36 inches apart. I had no mattress or pillow. I was forced to lie dead still from 3pm to 6am every day, too scared to turn over. If I brushed against another prisoner it might start a fight. Can you imagine living with constant fear like that?

We had no proper meals. They just tipped slops on to the floor – fish heads, chicken feet and black rice with bits of dirt – and people had to fight to get their share. I lost 17kg in three months. I soon learned to fight, or die. I had to share drinking water with rats and stray cats. I contracted TB, pneumonia and hepatitis B. I honestly believed I was going to die there.

I counted 97 dead bodies during my 27 months inside – killed by beatings or starvation. If someone died on Saturday or Sunday they’d leave the body in the cell until after the weekend. I’d wrap it in a bedsheet, if I could, to at least show a little respect, a shred of humanity. I think those things matter, don’t you?

What kept me alive was the survival grant of £30 a month I got from Prisoners Abroad. It meant I could buy basic food, safe water to drink and my asthma medication. It meant I could survive.

I don’t like to think what life would have been like for me without Prisoners Abroad. I would not have survived, I know it.

Listen to Dame Harriet Walter talk about Paul's story on BBC Radio 4.