Peru (1/5)

The drama-documentary series that tells the gripping real-life stories of travellers detained overseas returns for a new run. The first episode recounts the tale of Sarah Jackson, who duped her friend Simon into helping her smuggle drugs from Peru to the UK. Seized by police, the pair were split up and sent to different jails as they awaited trial.

In 2007, young mother Sarah Jackson found her party lifestyle in the otherwise sedate surroundings of Milton Keynes had finally caught up with her. She needed to pay off £3,000 to a loan shark, so she made a drastic decision. Sarah agreed to become a drugs courier, smuggling cocaine from Peru to the UK.

In order to make her trip seem like a holiday, Sarah invited her gullible friend Simon to come with her. Simon was to provide a cover of respectability and play the role of unwitting accomplice. At the last moment, Sarah tried to back out of the deal by telling the loan shark she had lost her passport. However, her creditor simply provided her with a false passport featuring a picture that looked nothing like her.

Despite the dodgy document, Sarah and Simon’s trip seemed to go smoothly. As she passed through check-in and passport control, Sarah’s confidence grew. Once in Peru, the pair enjoyed the beauty of the Peruvian Andes. But while Simon was innocently roaming the Inca ruins at Machu Picchu, Sarah was secretly taking delivery of nearly 10kg of cocaine.

As the pair prepared to return to London, Sarah got rid of Simon at Lima airport so she could check in alone. After running a gauntlet of dogs, police and security checks, she was briefly stopped by an airline official who had doubts about her passport. Her luggage was then held up after being X-rayed. Desperately trying to hide her nerves, Sarah was convinced that the police had discovered the drugs – but she miraculously made it through. The coast seemed to be clear until, all of a sudden, a polite voice asked her to wait, and Sarah was arrested by the anti-drugs police.

Meanwhile, Simon – oblivious to Sarah’s plight – went to look for her at the check-in counter, only to be arrested and dragged into an interrogation room. Moments later, he came face to face with Sarah in handcuffs and saw the cocaine laid out before him. It was only then that Simon realised his friend’s betrayal.

Unfortunately, Simon’s shyness and stumbling speech only served to convince the police that he was as guilty as Sarah. In due course, the pair were thrown into the nightmare world of Peruvian prisons. Shunted from one holding cell to another, it was Simon who suffered the most. The filth and violence of jail was made worse by knowing it was his supposed friend Sarah who put him there. After 18 days of fear, hunger and confusion Simon and Sarah were separated. Sarah was sent to an easy-going women’s jail while Simon was left to rot in an overcrowded nightmare of a men’s prison.

Ten months later, the Peruvian authorities finally accepted Sarah’s confession and let Simon out of prison. Yet he is still not free; he must stay and wait in Lima, living in a squalid room not much better than a cell. Only when Sarah is sentenced will he find out if he can go home or if he will be thrown back in jail. Yet the Peruvian penal system is so backed up that less than one in eight inmates at Sarah’s prison have been sentenced. Simon could be waiting for years to come.

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  • Myss

    Oh my Gosh! Congratulations Simon and family – what a great great early Christmas this is!!! As much as this seemed come about from the Peru court decision and not through the intervention of us here, well done to everyone who wrote to MPs, signed the petition, joined the facebook campaign etc. Like someone else wrote, I had been coming every week to check for an update with the hope of good week, at last it has come.

    I expect the Burke household to be making the biggest noise in celebration in the area!!! All the best Simon, I hope you can get your life back in check once your feet has settled down back in UK land.

    Myss x

  • Avril Muir

    Great news Simon.

  • Anonymous

    I watched this episode the other day and to say that I was shocked beyond belief at the injustice Simon has suffered is an understatement. This woman Sarah is a HORRENDOUS human being. How on earth someone could do such an atrocious thing to another person is beyond my comprehension. What she has done to Simon is a heinous crime against humanity. How can we help him? How can they keep him in Peru? He is innocent! I hope that vile woman rots in prison for the rest of her miserable life because she absolutley deserves to. And if there truly is such a place as Hell, she will for surely go there as well. One of the things that angered me the most was that she was sent to the wonen’s minimum security prison…a mere walk in the park compared to the horror Simon was forced to endure. I was praying that it would end happily for him. When I found out he was not allowed to leave Peru even after all they did to him I was shocked and deeply saddened. I can’t stop thinking about him. Are their any updates on him???? If anyone knows the latest please share…..

  • Schelly

    Wondering how Simon is doing now? I was so glad he was able to get home safely for christmas, the prayers and everything else worked! Just wondering if he is adjusting well and I just wanted to send him love from Minnesota!

  • Schelly

    OMG,I thought Simon got home right before Christmas, but apparently he is STILL IN PERU RIGHT NOW!!
    So sorry I got the wrong information, too many incorrect stories out there I guess! I will continue to pray and go to the facebook page to get the accurate information and there we all can help by writing to the peruvian government and donate to his fund.
    Please keep the faith and we will continue to work as hard as we can, this is the biggest injustice I have ever heard!

  • jk


  • Renea

    We’ve got to do something and something needs to be done NOW!!!! I went to the petition page and it is closed. I sitting here in tears and Praying for Simon’s safe return to the UK. I am going to do further research and follow-up with how we can get Simon home ASAP!

  • Oliver

    It is completely unacceptable.
    Would a peaceful protest at the Peruvian embassy in London help? Leaflets and t-shirts saying “Let Simon come home” could be distributed.

  • Tina

    Hi Simon, stay strong and keep in mind you have people all over the world praying and doing what they can to help you to be returned to the love and support you should be entitled to of your family and friends. While waiting I would certainly recommend you keep a diary and begin writting a book about your experiences as Im sure there are so many people out there who would love to read about it while you would also benefit from whatever incpme you would make by doing so. Hang in there,we`re trying for you xxx Tina.

  • Angela

    We are still campaigning to Get Simon Burke Home – come and find us at the Facebook group of the same name.

  • Colleen

    I saw Locked up Abroad last night on TV. I could not believe my eyes! And what really got me, is watching her smile and smirk. How could she do this to him? I pray he gets home very very soon.

  • bling

    This bitch Sarah Jackson deserves to burn in hell for what she did to least give the guy a heads up and so he can make his own decision. Never trust a money grubbing whore loser like this cunt Jackson. She’s a spineless piece of English trash who deserves to hang.

  • Maddy

    Why these things are happening? Is there anyone be held responsible? Please do not simply say “fate”,”destiny”, etc. All crap stuff:-( If “so called” god exists, what is he doing? When and what he will do and how is the going to compensate? The damage is already done. If he was really there, he ought to have forestalled right?


  • Derek

    Have just heard the great news that Simon will be on a plane and on his way home landing at Birmingham airport sunday 1540.

    I cannot say how thrilled I am for him and his family.

    Enjoy the rest of your life mate.

  • I am so happy to hear todays news that Simon is finally free to go home to the UK. I met Simon through Face Book. I had been searching the Internet for his contact info right after I watched NatGeoTV’s Locked Up Abroad. It doesn’t take much instinct to know this man got ‘the wrong end of the stick.’ Very shortly after we started communicating I grew to like Simon very much. He is genuinely a nice guy and he’s intelligent and witty. It did sadden me that he was ‘stuck in limbo’ even after the Peruvian court found him ‘not guilty.’ It seems that the prosecutor appealed the case to the Supreme Court and Simon couldn’t leave the country and didn’t speak Spanish and didn’t have ‘work papers’ and didn’t even have funds to live on properly. (His legal expenses used up lots of money and I believe that Simon’s parents spent a lot of their retirement money to help. A few people who didn’t even know Simon but believed in him did donate a few dollars/pounds but I know that Simon didn’t live a ‘life of luxury.’) He was fortunate to meet the family who allowed him to live in a room in their house. They were very nice people according to Simon. The two of us kept in touch once in a while as did other people and Simon. I often thought about what would it be like for me if I were in his shoes. I know life was not easy for him, boring, frustrating, maybe even a bit depressing. (I never asked him that) He did have a good sense of humor and we had a little fun on Face Book. A couple times he had me laughing hard, in fact, one time he got me laughing so hard I fell off my chair. Still, even with that, I knew deep down how grevious all of this really was for Simon. I don’t know how he kept it together so well with all of the frustrating things happening with the Peruvian courts. ( I once joked that the court must have been on ‘Siesta’. Guess what? I might have been right without even knowing it.) As it turned out Simon was, without intention, being victimized by a system which was not properly dealing with him. (The excuse was that’s how it goes in Peru, everything takes time.) I had already been writing letters, sending emails, making calls, etc., etc. but nothing was happening as it should have. One night I got pissed and decided to fax a message to the Consular with some strong language in it. I did it and I think a couple other people may have done it too. I accused the Consolute of not doing its job for its citizens. I said I had the Prime Ministers email address and the address of the Foreign Minister.(&I actualy did have the 1’st one.) I decided to give one try with the consolute. The fax was sent and within 24 hrs Simon was contacted by the Ambassador herself. He was asked to come in and he did. I don’t know exactly what happened at that point but Simon told me they said he needed to get a report to Peruvian Immigration. Of course, Simon immediately set out to do that but the Peruvian authorities seemed to be ‘on siesta’ once again and the whole thing took a few weeks. I was very disappointed because I didn’t think the British should have made Simon wait another day. Even so, I received the news and video Simon was on his way home. (In the vid, Simon was packing his stuff pretty quickly. I think he didn’t want to chance anyone slowing him down again.) All I can say is I am very pleased that Simon’s ordeal is coming to an end. Face Book was filled with ‘well wishers’ and everybody seems to be happy for Simon. now I hope he can ‘get his life back.’ I really do not know if what I did had any impact at all or if the UK Gov was finally doing what they should have done all along. The Consulate Office sites the ‘Data Security Act’ and won’t tell me one way or another. It doesn’t matter to me anyway. All that’s important is a law abiding UK citizen is finally out of a ‘Hell Hole.’ (Good Luck with the future, My Friend! And keep in touch once in a while.) I think I night delete Simon’s ordeal from my memory and start over. –bp

  • Heart Milton Keynes

    FOllow the link to hear our interview with Simon.

  • Shaun

    I know I am a bit late to the discussion but I have just watched the episode in question. That girl Sarah is pure evil and I hope that karma really goes to town on her. The way she was making herself out to be a victim when Simon was being so brave about his horrendous ordeal made me want to vomit on her ugly crack whore face. If you are back mate I hope that your future is awesome – you deserve it.

  • Sara

    Like Shaun I have only just watched the episode of Banged Up Abroad and I was in tears for Simon. It makes me feel sick that someone could be so deceitful for their own gain, and when she said she thought Simon would forgive her!! As if!! I Googled straight away to find out if Simon was back in the UK and very relieved to find this forum and hear that he is. Simon, I hope you can turn this horrendous experience into something positive and don’t allow it to ruin the rest of your life and your faith in human decency. Good luck to you.

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