British tourist is held in an Egyptian cell for three days after security forces mistook his homemade iPod amplifier for a BOMB as he tried to board flight home
- Robert Lapham was trying to fly home to UK from Egypt when he was arrested
- They mistook his homemade iPod speaker made out of a tin for a bomb
- He was held for three days and says he feared ‘being handed over to Isis’
- Carry-on laptops and tablets are now banned on flights from Egypt to Britain
- Country is among six in the Middle East part of the ban introduced last month
A British tourist trying to fly home was detained for three days by Egyptian security forces because they thought his homemade mint tin iPod amplifier was a bomb.
Robert Lapham had ‘visions of being handed to ISIS’ by Egyptian security forces after they mistook a headphone amplifier stuffed inside the Altoids tin for a bomb.
The father-of-three, 54, says he feared he would be shot while being detained for 75 hours after the small tin sparked a security alert.
He was returning from a week-long break with wife Julie on the first day of the electronic device ban when he was stopped at Marsa Alam airport, 80km from the Red Sea resort.
Egypt is among six countries where on flights from the Middle East to the United States and Britain carry-on laptops and tablets are banned.
The other countries affected by the ban, introduced last month, are Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.
Robert and Julie, 54, were stopped at around 3:30pm on March 29, and the couple were both detained for three hours.
But once they had already missed their flight, Julie was sent back to the hotel, and Robert was taken on a 240km drive by the security services.
Robert, who lives in Sevenoaks, Kent, said: ‘To start with, they weren’t saying anything, which made it a lot more scary.
He was returning from a week-long break with wife Julie on the first day of the electronic device ban when he was stopped at Marsa Alam airport, 80km from the Red Sea resort
‘Ours was the first flight out of Marsa Alam with the new rules and they were obviously on top of it, there was a woman from the British Embassy there checking everything was okay.
‘They saw my amplifier, which is an Altoid tin which opens up containing batteries, and were really interested in it – not in a good way.
‘I showed them what it was and how it worked, but more and more people got involved, and suddenly there were 12 officers.
‘We were taken off to one side, away from everyone, and put in a different part of terminal.
‘It started getting round to the time of flight and I asked about it and they said ‘the flight’s gone’ and that was it.
‘I was put in a corridor upstairs on my own, and the airport manager came and saw me and said it was serious and they had to get the police involved.
‘I got hold of our holiday rep at Thomson and luckily the person I got hold of said they would do whatever they could to get through to the foreign office and help.’
Full-time lorry driver Robert was then escorted to a van, where he was driven 80km to a police station with five national security guards.
He says at one point he feared for his life when they stopped mysteriously in the middle of the desert.
Robert, dad to Jonathan, 30, Christopher, 28, and Nicholas, 25, added: ‘I was terrified – I’m not a wimpy kind of guy but they just stopped in the pitch black and turned the engine off.
‘I really thought I’d be shot, I had visions of being handed over to ISIS and becoming the next James Foley
‘But they just had a chat and then drove back the other way – 80km to the police station in Marsa Alam itself – without saying a word on the way.
‘When we got there, the guy in charge just went in, handed over some paperwork, and then we drove 140km to El Quseir.
‘There was a state prosecutor waiting at 3.30am, and he convened and held a hearing.
‘There was an interpreter who had come all the way from the airport so I finally found out what was going on.
‘Luckily, we’d had time to find the eBay advert where I’d bought the amplifier and the prosecutor could see what it was.
‘He said it was like a bomb without explosives, but surely anything could be with batteries in?
‘In the end, he said it was ‘nothing to worry about, no problem, everything’s okay’.’
After the hearing, Robert, who suffers from arthritis, was forced to spend almost three days in a tiny prison cell as a matter of ‘procedure’.
Vice Consul Dawn Bacon visited him whilst detained, and Robert says she chased authorities incessantly for his release.
In the meantime, Julie had been waiting at the hotel, where Robert says she had been ‘just sat waiting, crying her eyes out’.
Robert says Thomson and Dawn were the reason they were finally able to make it home on the Saturday evening – almost three days late.
He said: ‘Thomson bought us EasyJet tickets for the Saturday evening, and then had to drive 140km to the police station because they wouldn’t release me without them.
‘They were about £650, and they paid for my wife’s taxi to the airport – I can’t thank them enough, they were great.’