British backpacker detained in Thailand for ‘picking up lost phone’ at Chiang Mai airport

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Conrad Duncan
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A British backpacker who was arrested and held in a Thai prison for picking up a lost mobile phone has been allowed to return home to his family.

Chris Dodd, a tattoo artist from Poole, said he picked up the phone outside an airport in Chiang Mai and intended to give it back to the owner.

In doing so, he moved it to a different location, which is considered theft in Thailand.

Mr Dodd said prison guards shaved off his dreadlocks, stripped him naked and gave him a blanket before he was put in a cell.

He faced up to five years in prison until he was released on bail after friends and family raised more than £20,000.

Mr Dodd spent more than a week in jail before he was released and had more than a month left in limbo before charges were dropped and he was allowed to come home.

His family and their lawyers were able to apply for a “non-prosecution order”, costing £5,000, to force police to withdraw all charges against him.

The order was approved by a Thai court last week.

In Thailand, it is a crime to unlawfully take property that is not yours, so just by moving the phone Mr Dodd was breaking the law.

Mr Dodd’s father Mike said: “It’s just such a relief to be honest with you.

“His mother and girlfriend have been out there with him recently and it was an emotional experience when they all got back.”

After Mr Dodd was released on bail, he was placed on a no-fly list and had his passport confiscated.

He had to report to court every 12 days to check on the progress of his case and after 48 days, his lawyers were able to provide the evidence and money needed to make the non-prosecution order.

Mr Dodd’s father added: “We’ve used up pretty much every penny of the crowdfunding campaign and I’m so grateful to everybody who donated to our cause.

“Without them we would have been looking at selling the house, which we would have done, but it would have been incredibly tough.”

Mr Dodd had been travelling in southeast Asia for several months and was due to return to the UK on 14 March.

Agencies contributed to this report