Remembering Laura, taken away by the TRNC police; never to be seen again

You know how sometimes when you wake in the middle of the night and you would love to turn over and go straight back to sleep, but your mind has other ideas? Well, for me last night was one of those nights. I lay there thinking about the case last Friday, the case to come next Thursday, the price of fish, you know all the normal things. Then I got to thinking about Laura the laptop; she often creeps into my sub conscious but last night she just plain refused to creep back out again.

Thursday 14th October 2010 was the day I lost Laura the laptop, allegedly because of the way I reported on the Geoff Day case. Let me take you back to that day.

At about 10.00 a.m. on that morning I received the first phone call demanding I attend Girne Police Statio. I prevaricated and played for time but at about 10.30 a.m. I received a second phone call, this time the request became an order and so, being the law abiding citizen that I am, I said I would go there at 3.00 p.m. During this phone call I was told that there had been a complaint about my writing on NCFP and specifically about my coverage of the on-going (at that time) Geoff Day case. Even at this stage they had achieved their aim to frighten and intimidate me. My first thought was ‘what if they keep me there for 3 days as they had with Geoff’, so I decided I would email just about everyone I knew to let them know what was happening. I emailed virtually everyone in my Contact list, amongst them Lord Maginnis, Mr. Rauf Denktas, Malcolm at NCFP, Ipek Ozerim, the Turkish Ambassador and indeed dozens more. My rationale being that it is harder for someone to disappear if enough people know where you were last seen. I realise now it was overkill, but at the time, this was my first encounter with the Police here and I was taking no chances.

Amongst my many e mails were several to the press. Ian Shepherd, who then worked for Cyprus Today, very kindly agreed to accompany me to the Police Station and we agreed to meet up there at 3.00 p.m. which we did. Susie the photographer took pictures of me entering the Police Station and I clearly remember thinking, I wonder how long it will be before I come out.

Once inside the Police Station I was directed to the officer who had phoned me and eventually became aware that there was one specific article they were talking about. ‘Geoff Day’s 57th TRNC court appearance – there and back again’. Of course I admitted I wrote it, it had my name on it. Please bear in mind that at this stage I was running on adrenalin and complete recall is not possible, although I do have a recollection of a caution being started in English (you know like the ones you see on ‘The Bill’) and one thing I am completely sure of, it was never finished. I was later told I wasn’t arrested because I had co-operated. I did ask if they had an arrest warrant, they said they did but although I asked on several occasions to see it, I never did.

They then said they would be seizing my laptop and searching my home. Again, both Agile and I asked if they had a search warrant, they said they did, but despite requests to see that, we never did. Agile suggested that they keep me at the Police Station as security and he would go home, collect the laptop and bring it back to the Police Station. They would not agree to that.

We left the Police Station in a convoy; Ian, Agile and me in our car, three male officers and one female officer following behind. You might think that a little over the top, four police officers, but do remember I was then a nifty 65 year old and Chris’s agility is the stuff of legends, you cannot be too careful. I might have shown them the picture on my bus pass; the one Agile uses to scare the crows.

When we arrived at our home, the police looked around the house, decided they would not carry out a search as I had ‘co-operated’. At this point we asked again to see the search warrant, we were not shown it but were assured it existed. They were adamant however that they were taking Laura the laptop. One officer carefully wrote a statement in English, the only input by me was my passport number and asked me to sign it. Naturally I refused. They also asked for the password for my laptop. This I also refused. After about an hour, during which we served them with refreshment, well what do you expect, we are British, they took my laptop complete with its carrying case and we then had to follow them back to the Police Station. It is interesting to note that upon leaving our home, one of the officers, before picking up my laptop, turned to me and said ‘may I take your laptop’ to which I replied ‘no you may not’ but he took it anyway.

During the trip back to the Police Station I phoned a friend who worked for an Advocate and asked if her boss could meet me at the Police Station, just to be sure my rights were guarded legally; please do not laugh. As we arrived at the Police Station so did my friend and her boss.

We insisted on a receipt for the laptop. The Advocate looked over the statement and told me to insert the words, ‘I do not agree with this statement’ which I did. The Advocate, for coming to the Police Station and looking over the statement, charged me £350.00 and apparently that was with a discount. My friend no longer works for him. I was assured they would look at the hard drive on the laptop and it would be returned to me within a couple of weeks and guess what, at that stage I actually believed them. There is one born every minute.

We left the Police Station being assured that a prosecution would follow.

During my ordeal, the recipients of my emails were working on my behalf. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office had been contacted and although there was little they could do, did give me moral support. You will recall they had previously advised us to leave the island for our safety following the break in at my villa and the vehicular attack on Agile. Lord Maginnis had allegedly intervened at Government level. The most poignant thing that happened was that Mr. Rauf Denktas, who had been sitting next to me in the Court during the 47th Hearing of Geoff Day’s case, emailed me and told me that if I was taken to court, not to hesitate to call him as a witness.

During the weeks that followed, every car that came near and every noise in the night, had me on tenterhooks; just as the person who instigated this ‘witch hunt’ had intended. Ian reported in Cyprus Today that a summons would follow within a week; having been told this in his journalistic role, but it did not.

I have made attempts to retrieve my laptop. I was told I would have to apply in writing to the Prosecution office. I did but when I took the letter in I was told it would have to be in Turkish and I would have to give my reasons for wanting it back. I dutifully took in the letter in Turkish and was given two phone numbers to progress my application; these numbers did not exist. I telephone the police office in the case and he said he could not release the laptop without written instructions from the Prosecution office. In desperation I asked a Turkish Cypriot friend if he could help. He telephoned the Prosecution office, my Turkish language letter was found and he was told that someone in the Prosecution office had written on the letter ‘Do not return, keep as evidence’.

So when will I be prosecuted, this year, next year, sometime, never??? In the meantime Laura languishes somewhere in the bowels of the Evidence Room. Or does she? Will I ever see Laura the laptop again? It is as well I did not Bank online. A lot of very personal and sentimental memories are on Laura the laptop and they can never be replaced.

Pauline Read – Member of the Chartered Institute of Journalists

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Comments are closed.