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Australian mum faces jail over bar mat 'theft'

Lumps of cheese

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An Australian mother-of-four facing five years in a Thai jail for allegedly stealing a bar mat has accused police of targeting her because she was with a group of women.

Annice Smoel spent four nights in a cramped jail cell in Phuket with three other inmates and feels "scared, helpless and alone" after being detained for what she says was a practical joke pulled by her friends.

A holiday in Phuket for her mother's 60th birthday turned into a nightmare on May 2 when she was at the popular Aussie Bar where she says two friends put the bar mat in her handbag.

Undercover police arrested the Melbourne woman and charged her with "night time theft", an offence that carries a higher punishment than day time theft.

Smoel, 36, was bailed after four days in jail but might have to wait 14 weeks in Thailand before she appears in court.

If found guilty, she could face between two and five years in jail.

Talking to reporters in a phone hook up from Phuket, Smoel, from Montrose in Melbourne's east, broke down.

"It's totally unbelievable," she told reporters.

When asked how she was coping away from her daughters Zhian, 12, Daisy, 11, Zoe, eight and Lilly, six, she started crying.

"I just want to come home to my kids. They're terrified and they are scared," she said.

"I really want to be a good mum."

She has missed a daughter's appendix operation, another's birthday and Mother's Day.

She pleaded with the Australian government for help.

"You've got to help me. I haven't done anything, it was all just a set up and a crock," she said.

She believes the only reason the incident has got to this stage is because "we were women on our own".

She says it wouldn't have escalated if there were men with the group.

But the owner of the Aussie Bar, Steve Wood, believes Smoel had been abusive toward the undercover police who had stopped her in the bar.

"When they talked to her all they wanted to do was chastise her, and they usually let you go. But she did a runner on them ... The police had to chase her down the beach," Mr Wood told Fairfax Radio Network.

"When they took her back to the police station, she continued to abuse everyone at the police station including the chief of police and I think this is what the problem is."

Police even refused bribes from Smoel, telling her she must report in every fortnight for the next 14 weeks.

"We offered them money right from the start, because we knew that's the way the system works over here and they wouldn't take it," Ms Smoel said.

Her husband Darren rushed to Thailand from Melbourne after her arrest.

He described the situation as a "complete joke" and told the government to "sort it out".

"I'm not leaving here without her, it's as simple as that," he told reporters via phone link.

"Nobody's putting my wife in jail, I'll tell you that. I will do whatever I have to do to get her out of here."

Lawyer Bernard Murphy said he didn't believe a crime had been committed.

"Let's take the worst view that it was a drunken souveniring of a bar mat: deport her, charge her, get her home, no issue," Mr Murphy told reporters.

"To date we are getting nowhere. It is a really important test for the department of foreign affairs and the minister, Stephen Smith, to take steps and intervene and fix this problem."

He said that if Smoel was an American, "she'd already be home".

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd insisted consular officials in Thailand were "providing every level of assistance" to Smoel and her family.





Well, when you steal a barmat and run from the cops and abuse the chief of police what do you expect?:whistling
 

Grennan

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I am sick to death of morons going overseas and not knowing the extreme sentences for crimes and blatantly breaking the law, then expecting the Australian government to come get them out of the ****.

I will say that yes its a bit extreme, all this over taking a bar mat but stealing is stealing and if you make the police chase you, you arent going to get any favours.
 

Philthy

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All over stealing a bar mat...sounds like she deserved it for running and being abusive though.
I've had a bar mat or 2 appear at my place after a night out, but you have to be careful overseas
 

Sabbath'

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Lock her up. Let her rot. Dont waste any of my taxpayer $$ trying to save her from her own actions.
 

.:Brad:.

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I heard this story on the radio on the way home, i was surprised when they said she was in jail for 4 days for it! but then when they said she faced up to 5 years i was shocked, just goes to show what a forgiving place Australia is, though it was a stupid thing to do anyways.
 

andyman

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clearly she refused to pay the coppers off, so they nicked her.......


thats how ive been told it work's over there.....
 

delcowizzid

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thats all right other countries they cut off your hands so 5 years isnt too bad LOL
 

Tatiana

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If the story is true, then yes it is harsh treatment by our laws, but there is the catch- OUR laws. If you travel overseas you must realise there are different laws to ours, and those laws can carry what we consider harsh punishment.
 

Kevin Paisley

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My missus abused me when she heard me laughing about it.....no sense of humour these females. She was pretty keen getting stuck into the Police Chief! Might've had a couple too many Thai jelly bean cruisers me thinks.
 
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