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Prison hell inspires Norfolk man's book

PUBLISHED: 18:15 10 January 2012

PAGE-TURNER: Joseph Dickerson, whose novel reflects on his time spent in a Cypriot jail. Photo by Simon Finlay

PAGE-TURNER: Joseph Dickerson, whose novel reflects on his time spent in a Cypriot jail. Photo by Simon Finlay

Archant Norfolk Copyright

Sitting in a filthy cell in a Cypriot prison, the victim of regular beatings and thousands of miles from home, Joseph Dickerson feared he would never get justice.

Sitting in a filthy cell in a Cypriot prison, the victim of regular beatings and thousands of miles from home, Joseph Dickerson feared he would never get justice.

Held with his business partner for six months on trumped-up fraud charges, before being released without explanation, he was unable to describe his experiences fully for many years.

But putting his thoughts down on paper has been cathartic for the grandfather-of-four – and his newly-published novel Every Day’s a Monday may have opened up a new career as an author.

“We were in there with lunatics, axe-murderers and rapists,” said Mr Dickerson, 68.

“There was nothing we could do. We were terrified we weren’t going to survive, because the odds were so stacked against us.”

The events that form the basis for the novel began in June 1994, when Mr Dickerson and associate Hugh Malloy, venture capital assessors working in Norwich, were invited to Cyprus to meet two brothers looking to raise $3m to buy a hotel in Nicosia and a further $2m to refurbish it.

But due diligence checks showed the hotel was on the market for just $1m – and the brothers turned nasty when the British pair queried the sums.

“They had a very simplistic view of things – they thought we would just turn up and hand over the money to them,” said Mr Dickerson, of The Street, Rockland All Saints.

“When we asked them about the price, they immediately got shirty and told us if we didn’t get them the money then we wouldn’t leave the island alive.”

Mr Dickerson and his partner returned to their hotel to pack and fly back to the UK, when they were arrested, handcuffed and taken to police cells in Limassol.

“We were both beaten up there, and were kept there for six days before we were allowed to see anyone,” he said.

The two were charged with fraud, for having accepted flights and hospitality from the brothers with, they said, no intention of raising the hotel funds.

They made weekly court appearances, being labelled the ‘British mafia’ by the Cypriot press, but their case made slow progress and the months slipped by.

Throughout that time, the two were held in Nicosia prison, being beaten by other prisoners, and forced to clean toilets and showers – despite no case having been proved against them.

Intervention from the British Embassy failed to speed up the process, before then-South West Norfolk MP Gillian Shephard became involved after Mr Dickerson’s wife, Karen, appealed to her directly.

“At the time she was ill with cancer, though she has now recovered,” he said. “I asked the judge if I could leave prison just to see her for a couple of days – he just laughed at me.”

With Mrs Shephard’s help, the British Ambassador arranged the pair’s release within weeks, and they flew back to the UK just before Christmas 1994. No charges were ever brought, and the pair were awarded £15 in compensation.

When he arrived home, Mr Dickerson found his experiences were too raw to share with friends and family, but promised his wife he would put pen to paper one day.

“The title of the book is Every Day’s a Monday because, that’s what I used to say when Hugh asked me what day it was,” he said.

“I had planned it as a non-fiction book, but turning it into a novel allowed me more freedom – it’s been my way of getting back at them.

“My family and friends have been horrified by the book. They’ve read the book and asked me why I didn’t tell them before. I suppose I was ashamed.

“But I’ve also discovered that I liked writing, so I’ve written two more books since, which will come out later this year.

“Writing the book has been a great way to get things off my chest.”

Every Day’s a Monday is available at Amazon, Waterstone’s and Jarrold’s in Norwich. See www.joseph-dickerson.co.uk

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