Peruvian nightmare to end for city man?

Former scout leader held after cocaine seized

A former scout leader could learn this week if he can leave Peru 20 months after he and a city woman were arrested smuggling 10 kilos of cocaine.

Simon Burke, aged 37, of Coffee Hall, was tricked into taking part by old girlfriend Sarah Jackson.

His family say Simon was literally 'an innocent abroad.'

Simon's ordeal began in January 2007 when Sarah asked him to join her on holiday to Tenerife as thanks for helping her over the years.

Driving to the airport she broke the news the 'holiday' was actually in South America. Simon did not know Sarah had been tapped up by a loan shark to bring back drugs – apparently to clear mounting debts at home.

After 10 days they headed home. At Lima airport drugs police found the cocaine and both were arrested.

Sarah maintained Simon was innocent but he too was sent to prison to await trial.

Ten months later she signed a confession and Simon was released on bail but unable to leave Peru until the authorities decide what to do with Sarah.

At home Simon's father Alan said it had all been "a nightmare".

"Simon had a good job. He was a scout leader and loved camping and music and never been in trouble with the police," he said.

His arrest, imprisonment and virtual house arrest has cost his parents more than 10,000 – with cash sent out to support him and 6,000 wasted on a Peruvian lawyer.

Alan points the finger of blame at Sarah. "Simon has known her years on and off and has given her money. When he told me they were going to Tenerife and she was paying I told him there would be trouble," he said.

"But she has coughed to the lot and told the police Simon had nothing to do with it."

Staying with a Peruvian family Simon has kept fit after his prison ordeal, including surviving an earthquake, and learned Spanish. This week, after countless delays, the case could be reviewed and Simon could be on his way home.

"But we have had our hopes raised before," said Alan. It is possible Peruvian authorities could send him back to jail.

Sarah faces 10 years in prison. She has a teenage daughter and a grandchild she has never seen.

>> You can see more about Simon and Sarah in Banged Up Abroad, tomorrow night (Wednesday) at 10pm on FIVE television.