Corby man in Egyptian artefacts smuggler mix-up

Andrew May was mistaken for an artefacts smuggler when about to return home from a holiday in Egypt
Andrew May was mistaken for an artefacts smuggler when about to return home from a holiday in Egypt

A man and his girlfriend suffered a 12-day ordeal in Egypt after being mistakenly caught up in an investigation into an international mafia smuggling operation.

Andrew May, 30, and his girlfriend Julia Rowe, arrived in the Egyptian resort of Hurghada on September 21 on a Thomson’s package holiday.

After a relaxing week their holiday turned into a nightmare when Mr May, of Watson Close, Corby, was surrounded by military-style security officers at the airport departure lounge as they waited for their flight home.

Eventually the couple learned that the Egyptian authorities are looking for a man also named Andrew May who has been smuggling antiquities out of the country.

Mr May said: “I was the third Andrew May to be prevented from leaving Egypt.

“At the airport it was a nightmare. There were people shouting and we couldn’t understand what was going on. I kept telling myself that this was clearly a mistake and someone would sort it out soon.

“While we were being held another Andrew May and his wife, from Cornwall, were brought to us to explain the situation.

They had been kept in Egypt for two weeks and were in a terrble state. They were able to give me numbers for a lawyer and a contact at the British Embassy. They were going home but our ordeal was just beginning.”

Mr May was asked to sign papers stating that he had agreed to stay in Egypt.

He said: “I was told it was either that or I would be taken to a prison in Cairo.”

Mr May had to pay a lawyer £1,000 cash while the mix-up was resolved and, with additional hotel and travel bills, says the ordeal has cost him £3,000.

He said: “It was terrible waiting each day to see if we could fly home. When we were eventually told we could return to Britain, Thomson charged my girlfriend and I £8 each for seats on a coach to Luxor where we caught a plane home. I’ll be writing letters to complain. It was a terrifying situation to be in. What if the same thing had happened to an elderly couple.

“Each day we waited and waited for clearance to go home, worrying and spending money we couldn’t afford. Our families back home were worried too.”

A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: “We are aware of the issue and we are liaising with the Egyptian authorities.”