The mother of a British soccer coach who has been incarcerated in Dubai for 25 years after four small bottles of vape liquid containing cannabis oil were found in his car, has revealed that the sentence “breaks every day”.
Breda Guckion, 52, said she “still had hope” that Billy Hood would be released from prison, but when she heard that her son was going to be behind bars for a quarter of a century, she said, “I was completely broken”.
Hood, 24, of Notting Hill, West London, received the severe sentence despite being able to prove that the vape belonged to a visiting friend who accidentally left it in his car.
The anti-drug and non-smoking fitness fanatic was arrested nine months ago in January and convicted by a drug delivery court last week.
His heartbroken mother Breda told Good Morning Britain on Thursday: “I think that for the first nine months, even though we knew he had done nothing wrong, we still had that hope.
“But hearing that it was 25 years broke us, it broke us completely.”
Breda fought back tears, adding, “It still breaks me every day just thinking about it. Just looking at his photo is ruining me now. ‘
When discussing why the vapor liquid was found in his car, she explained, “He dropped a friend of his at the airport and they left him in the car. And that’s why it was there. ‘
Dubai police reportedly picked Hood after monitoring WhatsApp messages and searching for drug-related keywords. A week before his arrest, the friend who owned the vape sent a message informing Hood that he had mistakenly left it in his car.
British football coach Billy Hood (24) from London (pictured) was sentenced to 25 years in prison in Dubai after four small bottles of vape liquid with cannabis oil were found in his car
Breda Guckion, 52, said the family had “hope” that Billy Hood will be released from prison, but when she heard that her son would be behind bars for a quarter of a century, she said, “It completely broke her.”
Breda said the message is believed to have been intercepted because it contained “CBD”. She said, “Everything we get from them is in Arabic, so we have a hard time translating everything, but yes, they say that.”
Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed was revealed last week that he had hacked into the phone of his ex-wife and her lawyer Baroness Shackleton using spyware while a custody hearing was being held in the High Court.
The United Arab Emirates is known for using the Israel-made Pegasus spyware.
Hood, who played semi-professional football for Kensington and Ealing Borough FC, was stunned when police unexpectedly showed up at his apartment in January and asked for his house and company car to be searched.
Four small vials of cannabis oil (CBD) vape liquid and a vape pen were later found in the passenger door.
After his arrest, Hood volunteered for a urine test for drugs, which came back negative.
Vape liquid containing CBD (cannabis oil) is sold by high street stores in the UK and is perfectly legal, although it must contain less than 0.2% THC, which is the ingredient that causes users to get “high” .
Cannabis and cannabis oil are illegal in Dubai, where there is no tolerance to drugs.
Hood appeared in a court in Dubai last week and was sentenced to 25 years in prison after being convicted of drug smuggling, possession and delivery.
His mother Breda accused the UK Foreign Office of “unsupporting” the family and on Thursday asked emotionally for help to get Billy home.
She said, “As a mother and I know a lot of people who know Billy, please, please, if anyone can help bring Billy home, please. That’s all I can ask of you. ‘
When asked about the case, a spokesman for the Federal Foreign Office told MailOnline: “We are giving consular support to a British man who is imprisoned in the United Arab Emirates.”
Breda said she spoke to Billy about a month ago. She added, “It was a three-way conversation, we can never speak to Billy directly.
“It always had to go through the lawyer who would connect with his brother” [Alex] and then we would talk to him.
‘He always seemed to say,’ Oh, don’t worry, Mum. It will be alright.’ But the last time Alex said he talked to him, he said he felt broken. ‘
Dubai police are believed to have singled out Billy (left, with his aunt) after monitoring WhatsApp messages a week before his arrest
About his arrest, Billy said, “I don’t smoke vape pens, cigarettes, or even shisha. I am very much against drugs and spend my days training in schools with children.
“I had just moved to a new home in Dubai and was about to get a phone charger out of my car when suddenly the police came up to me.
“They jumped out to arrest me and handcuffed me. An officer pointed a taser at me and threatened to use it if I didn’t cooperate.
“They asked me to show them where the drugs were. I was shocked and confused and told them I don’t own drugs. “
Hood said one of the arrest officers said he was interested in him through social media but did not take his phone or computer with him. He claims that the vape liquid was not mentioned on social media but in a WhatsApp message.
Police also found a few thousand pounds in cash in his apartment, but Hood’s employers told police they paid him the money while his bank account was being set up.
The family’s advocacy group arrested in Dubai believes the only explanation for the unannounced police appearance could be authorities monitoring WhatsApp and reading the message about the steam liquid.
Vape liquid containing CBD with less than 0.2% THC is legal in the UK but illegal in Dubai where there is no tolerance to drugs (stock image)
Hood was held at a police station for four days, where he was told that if he did not sign a confession in Arabic, he would never be allowed to leave.
Family members said he was so scared and tired that he agreed without knowing that he had admitted such serious crimes.
His mother Breda said:“We didn’t even know Billy was arrested.
“It was the fact that he didn’t show up for three days and his boss went to the police and reported Billy missing that they found out he was locked up then. Not even his friends in Dubai knew he was being arrested. ‘
Speaking about her son’s detention conditions in Dubai, Breda added:“I know they weren’t good in the beginning when they got him to sign this statement.
“I know he was in the same room with 30 others and slept on the floor with a blanket, bread and water – nothing else. Until he signed this declaration in Arabic.
“I think he did it after the fourth or fifth day, but they laughed in his face and said,” Well, if you don’t sign it, you won’t get out of here. “
When Hood appeared in court last week and was sentenced to the maximum sentence for drug smuggling, possession and delivery.
His concerned family are putting their hopes on an appeal next week in which lawyers will argue that he was bullied into signing the confession, proving that there is no evidence that the vape was from him.
His brother Alex told Mail Online: “It was difficult to cope with Billy’s continued incarceration and the notion that he could be in jail until he was 50.
“You couldn’t meet anyone fitter than Billy. He’s never used drugs and doesn’t even smoke. We never thought that moving to Dubai could be a one-way ticket. “
Hood’s best friend Alfred Cain told Good Morning Britain, “Billy is one of the most positive people I’ve met in my life, and when I got the chance to speak to him, he sounds like he’s holding it all together.
“But when you’re in a United Arab Emirates prison halfway around the world, you never know how someone will feel in there.”
Speaking of Hood’s time in Dubai before his arrest, Alfred said, “He was out there for about two years and for the first eight months, I remember, he came back.
“It’s getting extremely hot out there and he came back for about four months and had the time of his life. He had got his coaching badges and just wanted to get ahead as a football coach and then come back here [to the UK] and go ahead. ‘
The family criticizes the British embassy in Dubai, which they claim did not visit Billy in the nine months of his detention.
Hood’s mother Breda said, “I have hid crying and crying when I think about what my son is going through.
“It is impossible for him to be involved in drugs and my son does not deserve it and I appeal to Sheikh Mohammed to intervene in this case. My son is innocent. ‘
Radha Sterling, Founder of Detained in Dubai, said: The transfer of drug cases by Dubai police has resulted in numerous unfair detentions of foreign nationals.
“We have seen people arrested and even convicted without evidence, often on the basis of a forced confession in Arabic or by third parties.
“Drug convictions are prestigious to the police and lead to promotion, and the courts do not need solid evidence to win a conviction. Foreign nationals find it almost impossible to get a fair trial and false accusations are common. “