Banged Up Abroad Series Premiere

Thursday 18th February 10.30pm

The drama-documentary series that tells the real-life stories of travellers detained overseas returns. The first episode recounts the tale of musician David Evans, who agreed to smuggle cocaine out of Venezuela – only to be arrested and imprisoned in one of the toughest penal systems in the world.

In 2006, David Evans was a struggling musician playing small-time gigs in the city of Atlanta, Georgia. “I felt like a failure,” he recalls. Financial pressures were bearing down on David and his girlfriend, Julie Goldstein. At one point, Julie was forced to pawn her beloved saxophone. “To pawn it was a sign we were deeply in trouble,” David says.

Over the course of time, David became friendly with a flashy, well-dressed drug dealer by the name of Melvin. He learnt that Melvin not only dealt drugs but smuggled them into the country. The guitarist began to wonder if drug smuggling could be the solution to all his problems. “This is crazy but I was intrigued,” he admits. “I’m in deep, I need the money.”

David agreed to travel on an all expenses-paid trip to Venezuela to pick up 3kg of cocaine worth £30,000 and deliver it to Amsterdam. He would earn $5,000 for the trip. Julie, meanwhile, was preparing for a tour in Europe. She believed her boyfriend was flying directly to Amsterdam and would meet her there. “Julie had no idea what I was doing and that’s the way I wanted it,” he says.

In Caracas, David struggled to cope with the noise and heat. Arriving at his hotel, he lost his hat. David looks back on this incident as the beginning of his downhill slide. “I felt like I’d left behind a part of me,” he says. When David finally met Melvin’s contact, he found the man deeply suspicious. After spending several days killing time, David was directed to collect a black bag full of drugs from a street corner. Once the drugs were in his possession, he made his way to the airport.

While waiting for his flight, David heard his name paged by security. Melvin had assured him that all the guards were bribed and he should not worry if they questioned him. “I was calm about it,” he recalls. “Nothing good comes from worrying.” David waited while a guard searched his bag and inspected the spray canisters containing the cocaine. He appeared to be in the clear – then a second guard arrived to take another look. To David’s horror, this man broke open the canisters and found the drugs. “I’m going to jail,” was David’s only thought.

David was held in a detention centre full of violent, scheming criminals. “They’re trying to figure out what you’re made of, what they can do to you, what they can get from you,” he recollects. With his one phone call, David rang Julie, now in Amsterdam, and broke the shocking news of his incarceration. “I just felt like all the blood had gone from my head,” she says. Back in the prison, David had to fight his corner to stop thieves taking his money and cigarettes.

The musician was sentenced to eight years in jail and sent to the terrifying Los Toques prison. “Los Toques is where they put people who have been chased out of all the other prisons,” he says. “They are the crazy ones.” Los Toques is ruled by criminal gangs, all of whom are at war with each other. Inmates carry machine guns and there are numerous murders each year.

While the embassy tried to organise David’s repatriation, Julie supported him by sending money. With this cash, David bought himself a guitar. “That guitar saved my life,” he says. His musical skills won him favour and protection from one of the prison bosses. He eventually spent over a year in Los Toques before being transferred to an American jail, where the authorities reduced his sentence to 27 months. Two years after his arrest, this film follows David as he reunites with Julie for the first time.

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  • Mariangelgz

    Did they get back together?
    He messed up but hasn’t he suffered enough?

  • Moh Atiq2

    well i am more curious to know if they got back together ???

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